By Ed Odeven
Gary Payton played point guard as fearlessly and with as much intensity on defense as anyone has ever done. He’s equally as bold when it comes to dishing out his opinions about the sport he still loves.
The nine-time NBA All-Star believes he could impart a wealth of defensive wisdom to current players, but isn’t convinced that it would be time well spent, even though Tim Grgurich, a longtime NBA assistant coach, has discussed the idea of establishing a Payton camp for point guards.
“Since there’s not too much defense played in the NBA now, to get a guy, who wants to be in his mentality and say, you know what, ‘I’m going to go play defense just like Gary Payton because I’m going to figure it out with him,’ it would be great to do that. And I think a lot of guys want to do that, but nowadays you don’t have to do that because ain’t nobody going to guard you like that and then you can score as many points,” Payton said with a hint of regret.
During a recent stopover in Tokyo, Payton, now 44, described the typical mind-set of players today.
“I can get 35 and you get 30 and I won. It doesn’t equal out to me,” he told Hoop Scoop. “To let somebody get 30 points on you, and you feel good because you got 35 on them, that’s not good for me, you know what I’m saying? If I get 35, I want him to get 12 or 14 because that means I’ve done something. I’ve done my job. I went out there and played hard and did what I had to do.
“I’ve been thinking about doing that and I think guys would come to the camp, and I think I would get the guys who have that tough mentality to say, ‘yeah, I want to buckle down and do this.’
“It would be good if I can get it started but my main concern is I would have to have guys who want to be dedicated to do that. I don’t want to waste my time.”
Payton played in the NBA for nearly two decades, 1990-2007. During that time, Payton, the No. 2 overall pick in the 1990 Draft (one spot behind New Jersey’s Derrick Coleman, and one ahead of Denver’s Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, who closed out his career in 2011 with the Kyoto Hannaryz) out of Oregon State by the Seattle SuperSonics, was named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team nine times.
Only Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and Michael Jordan have also been selected to nine All-Defensive First Teams.
Defense was Payton’s signature trait, but he excelled as a complete all-around guard. The 193-cm star averaged 16.3 points, 6.7 assists and 1.8 steals in 1,335 regular-season contests for Seattle, Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics and Miami Heat, including a championship with the Heat in 2006.