Photo: Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports

Leaving the place that helped you grow might be a tough pill to swallow, but Gary Payton II understands that he can’t pass up a much bigger opportunity in front of a financial standpoint.

Payton II admitted that he desired to run it back and return to the Golden State Warriors following their championship season, but opted to grab a much lucrative paycheck that was offered by the Portland Trail Blazers.

“I had to take the money,” Payton II said upon joining the latest episode of “Truth & Basketball with George Karl.” “I had to take the money coach [George Karl]. 

“It didn’t work out. I would love to go back to Golden State, but it didn’t work out. Just the timing and everything. Just a business deal, and I just had to take the money.”

After spending the majority of his career as a basketball nomad, Payton II found a home in the Bay Area.

It was in last season that the undrafted cager fully embraced his niche for the Warriors, serving as a defense-first guard off the bench anchoring their perimeter. Averaging 7.1 markers, 3.5 boards, and 1.4 assists in an impressive 61.6 percent shooting mark in 71 games, Payton II managed to enchant the Warriors faithful due to his energy, humbling demeanor, hard work and sheer lockdown attitude on the defensive end.

He even extended his worth to the postseason. Though he was shelved in the middle of the Dubs’ eventual championship exploits due to a broken elbow, the 29-year-old didn’t shy away to provide a much-needed presence under the bright lights of the 2022 NBA Finals, dropping a huge 15 points and five boards as a reserve to help Golden State take a deciding 3-2 lead over the Boston Celtics.

Few days later, he was crowned as an NBA champion with the club. But when the free agency market officially opened its door, Payton took a turn and considered getting paid. His season of rebirth indeed resulted in a three-year, $28 million partnership with the Blazers.

As much as a reunion sounds ideal to spark off, Payton II had a blossoming value which the Warriors can’t handle even more. Given the salary cap overload that they are facing, Gary went on a different road, seized practical thinking and identified that it’ll be a business at the end of the day.

Now with a Portland team being bannered by superstar Damian Lillard, Payton II will look to help the franchise in bouncing back from a lowly 2021-2022 season and be back to the playoff arena of the barbaric Western Conference.

Though he is now going on this new mission with a different team, there’s no doubt that the golden memories will remain etched and treasured in his mind forever.