LBS had the pleasure of speaking with former NBA Defensive Player of the Year and nine-time All-Star Gary Payton last week. Our conversation covered a wide range of topics. I asked him what it was like to guard Michael Jordan in the 1996 NBA Finals, how his talented ’03-’04 Lakers team compares to the current Lakers, and what it was like trying to learn the triangle offense. We also discussed whether trash talk ever goes too far on the court, as many felt it did in the Kevin Garnett-Carmelo Anthony spat.
Payton spoke to us to promote his participation with Thuzio. Thuzio is an online service that helps connect athletes with fans for unforgettable experiences. For instance, you can go here to book Payton for a lunch or dinner, fantasy draft, pick-up game, appearance, speaking engagement, or even to provide personal coaching instruction. You can see the other athletes Thuzio has available for booking at their website.
Before the NBA season began, many people saw similarities between the current Lakers team and the 2003-’04 squad. The ’03-’04 team brought in Payton and Hall of Famer Karl Malone to join Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. When the Lakers acquired Dwight Howard and Steve Nash over the offseason, it looked like the team was assembling another star-studded cast. Payton doesn’t see it that way.
“I don’t see any similarities,” Payton said bluntly. “People have to understand basketball and have to understand this team is nothing like what me and Karl Malone did. When Malone and I joined the Lakers, we started off the season 19-3*. When Malone got hurt, that’s when our season went down the pits. But it didn’t even go down the pits — we made it to the NBA Finals.”
Payton says that Lakers team had multiple distractions that made it difficult to achieve what they wanted to.
“People don’t understand that Kobe Bryant was going through the stuff that he was going through, and it was taking a toll on him,” Payton said of Bryant, who was going through his sexual assault case at the time. “If we’d had the Kobe Bryant of now instead of the one who was going through problems, it would have been a little bit different.
“Shaquille (O’Neal) was going through a lot of things with the organization at the time, too. He was fighting with the organization about a lot of different stuff and he really did not want to be there.
“When Karl Malone got back, he re-injured his shoulder, and that hurt us in the long run. We ran into the Detroit Pistons who were hungry. They made a push and they beat us,” Payton told Larry Brown Sports.
“I don’t see any similarities from our team to this team. This team is not is going to be in a championship. They got to get a lot of things together. We had a great coach in Phil Jackson and we still struggled. He still made us become a basketball team that made it to the playoffs and finals.”
Payton said he struggled adjusting to the Lakers’ offensive system that season. I asked him how difficult it is to try learning the triangle offense for the first time.Google+