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Wednesday, June 27, 2001
Payton thanks fans, sounds as if he's gone

SEATTLE --Gary Payton sounds as if he thinks his days in Seattle are numbered.

Payton nearly a Grizzly
The Sonics were close to trading All-Star point guard Gary Payton to Vancouver for Shareef Abdur-Rahim before the Grizzlies chose to deal with Atlanta instead.

The trade was nixed when the Grizzlies decided to go younger with their trade and draft-day approach. The Grizzlies committed to trade Abdur-Rahim for the No. 3 pick and two 25-year-olds -- point guard Brevin Knight and forward-center Lorenzen Wright. The Grizzlies will keep the sixth pick but will likely give the No. 27 pick to Atlanta. The Grizzlies don't want to take on three first-round salaries.

The Sonics would have given the Grizzlies the No. 12 pick, in addition to Payton, who turns 33 next month.

Tuesday night, Payton had issued a statement that virtually said goodbye to Seattle fans and noted that he had not requested a trade.
-- Andy Katz

The seven-time All-Star point guard of the SuperSonics issued a statement Tuesday night that left the impression that he thinks his only NBA team is about to trade him.

His statement was addressed to his fans in Seattle.

"Over the course of the past few weeks, various articles have been written and statements have been made about my state of mind and my commitment to the Seattle Supersonics," he said. "I feel that it is now time to personally express my feelings to you.

"I want to take the time to thank you for supporting me throughout the years, for your loyalty through winning and losing seasons, good times and bad times. Most importantly, I would like to stress that I have always been committed to the Seattle organization and I have never demanded to be traded."

Sonics management spokesmen were not immediately available for comment late Tuesday night.

The Sonics declined comment on Payton's statement as they prepared for Wednesday's NBA draft.

After the Sonics missed the playoffs for the second time in three years this past season, new principal owner Howard Schultz and Sonics CEO-president Wally Walker said none of the team's players was untouchable.

Payton, the franchise's all-time leading scorer, was a favorite of former owner Barry Ackerley, who told his front office it could not trade Payton.

Payton noted he stayed with the Sonics in 1996, the year he helped them get to the NBA Finals against the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan.

"I signed my current contract with the Seattle Supersonics in 1996 after giving serious consideration to the opportunity to sign with just about any team I choose," he said. "I decided to remain in Seattle for two reasons. First, I believed in Seattle management and then-owner Barry Ackerley, and second, I appreciated the tremendous support I received from the fans throughout my career in Seattle.

"By signing with Seattle, I felt I made a strong commitment to the organization and I made clear my intent and desire to retire a Supersonic, just as my good friend and mentor, Nate McMillan," the letter said.

Payton, who has an $87 million contract, asked the Sonics for a contract extension, but didn't get one.

"It was also my expectation that the Sonics and I would come to terms on a contract extension at an appropriate time, which was discussed by my agents and Sonics' management as early as last summer," he said.

"I have two years left on my current contract and I feel as though I am still playing the best basketball of my career. I was looking for a Seattle Supersonic extension only as a reward for how I have played throughout the years."

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