After a blazing hot start (pun intended) to the 2022-23 season, the Portland Trail Blazers have struggled the past few weeks. The team owns just a 3-7 record over its last 10 games and has dropped to the eighth seed in the Western Conference at 13-11. In a matter of weeks, the Blazers went from fighting for the West's top seed to now fighting for merely a playoff spot.
Despite things not going well for the Blazers lately, there is still hope that the team can turn things around. After missing the past two weeks, Damian Lillard is back in the lineup. Plus, a recent injury update hints at the idea that guard Gary Payton II is one step closer to making his debut with the team.
According to The Rose Garden Report's Sean Highkin, Lillard said Payton II practiced with the Blazers for the first time on Wednesday.
Payton, 30, is in his seventh season in the NBA and first with the Blazers. He holds career averages of 5.2 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 1.0 steals across 142 total games.
Gary Payton II enjoyed a career year with the title-winning Golden State Warriors last season. He averaged a career-high 1.4 steals and emerged as not only one of Golden State's best perimeter defenders but one of the best in the entire NBA.
Even without Payton, the Blazers' defense has had some success, as it gives up the 11th-fewest points of any team at 111 per game. However, a healthy Payton can improve this defense from good to borderline great.