In the 1990s when Hall of Famer Gary Payton was playing for the Seattle SuperSonics, he trained in his hometown of Oakland that summer. While working out at a local gym, he took his son to his father Al’s house on 41st Street.
Now that Gary Payton II returns to the Bay Area on a 10-day contract he signed with the Warriors on Thursday, he fondly remembers visits to Grandpa’s house.
« I spent a lot of time here growing up, » said the younger Payton, who will be available for Friday night’s game against the Washington Wizards. « It’s my home away from home. »
Over the years working on the fringes of professional basketball, Payton had many homes: college took him to the state of Oregon. He had G League stints and NBA auditions in Texas, Los Angeles, Wisconsin and Washington DC before a standout performance in Florida’s G League bubble earned him his final try with Golden State.
As the Warriors tackle the final leg of the regular season, they give Payton an opportunity to prove he can deserve an extended stint in the NBA near the town where most of his family – including his mother – are located and his father – still alive.
« It was the conversation in the whole family: When will we have this opportunity? » Payton said Thursday after his first training session with the Warriors. “So this is this opportunity. My family want me to stay somewhere, of course I want to stay somewhere. This wouldn’t be a bad place to hang out and be close with family for a few years. »
Like his father, Payton has earned a reputation as a lockdown full-back. After playing 13 games with the Raptors 905 in the G League bubble, Payton was named G League Defensive Player of the Year last month. Another NBA test seemed imminent.
When the front offices sorted out their rosters within the trading deadline, Payton was training in Las Vegas. Eventually he got a call from his agent telling him to pack his bags and board the next flight to San Francisco. Payton, who has moved almost a dozen times in the past six years, was ready to leave.
« I never unpacked, » said Payton. « I took my bag and got on the flight the next day. »
After his mandatory quarantine and COVID-19 screening, Payton signed his 10-day contract and practiced on Thursday. Over the next 10 days, spanning a total of six games, Payton will seek to earn a long-term stay by protecting opposing ball handlers, handling the ball, and knocking down open jumpers.
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This last part may be the toughest as Payton is only a 25.6% 3 point shooter of his career. Kerr told him to take these shots with confidence, but Payton knows his strength.
« I didn’t come here to get 30 points, » said Payton. “Every team has this one man who gets paid hundreds of millions of dollars to do it. I’m here to stop the other best person and do what I can to get the ball back and bring it to the man who knows how to close games. »
For the Warriors, that man is Stephen Curry, whom Payton will be supporting until April 17th. If Golden State decides it wants an enhanced look, it can sign a second 10-day contract with Payton. The Payton family believe this is Junior’s best attempt yet to find an NBA home, and Senior looks forward to seeing his son play soon.
« He told me, just to get it done – try to find a place to glue, » Payton said of his father. “You know how we are. We can get some kind of slick in our mouths sometimes, but we’ll go out there and fight and fight.
« Doing this in Oakland – for my family and everyone out here – is special. »
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