A Warriors team that has three wing players in the NBA's health and safety protocols will debut another new starting lineup on Thursday against the Memphis Grizzlies.
With wings Jordan Poole, Andrew Wiggins and Damion Lee all in protocols and veteran forward Andre Iguodala out due to a right knee injury, Golden State head coach Steve Kerr announced Gary Payton II and Otto Porter Jr. will join regulars Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Kevon Looney in the starting lineup at the Chase Center.
"We wanted to get Otto's shooting in the starting lineup just to provide Steph a little spacing, a little help," Kerr explained pregame. "We factored in how the rotations would look behind those guys. I've been trying to find ways to get Gary more minutes anyway and he'll start and he'll guard Ja (Morant)."
Lee was placed in health and safety protocols on Wednesday, becoming the third different Warriors player to enter protocols in the last week as Poole (Friday) and Wiggins (Sunday) have now missed multiple games. The Warriors' coaching staff is also dealing with the ramifications of a surge in COVID-19 cases as Kerr said assistant coach Mike Brown was placed in protocols Thursday and will not be on the bench against Memphis.
Kerr said the Warriors do not expect any current player or staffer in protocols to rejoin the team for Saturday's Christmas Day showdown in Phoenix against the Suns.
Thursday's matchup with the Grizzlies (19-13) marks the return of assistant coach Kenny Atkinson, who has missed nearly two months of games due to a leg injury suffered in a late-October workout. Atkinson, the former Brooklyn Nets head coach, was hired over the summer when the Warriors revamped their coaching staff.
Payton II will become the third different Warriors player to start in the backcourt alongside Curry since Poole's absence began in Boston last week. Rookie Moses Moody was Poole's initial replacement, but Lee stepped into the lineup on Saturday in Toronto and on Monday at home against the Sacramento Kings.
Rookie Jonathan Kuminga started in place of Wiggins on Monday, but played just six minutes as he dealt with back tightness. Kuminga returned to practice this week and is expected to be available off the bench Thursday, but Kerr tabbed the veteran Porter for his first start of the season.
Wiseman nearing return to contact
Kerr said second-year center James Wiseman could be cleared for contact as soon as next week.
Warriors director of sports medicine Rick Celebrini told Kerr that Wiseman, who underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus in April, is poised to soon take a significant step in his rehab process that would inch him closer to a return to game action.
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