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.
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
"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
"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
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."
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