Gary Payton still irked by his 2003 departure from Seattle


payton-bucksGary Payton was set to become a free agent in the summer of 2003, and the Seattle SuperSonics’ front office was not exactly keen to spend big money on a guard that was going to turn 35 during the offseason, in spite of Payton’s All-Star-level play.

In order to grab some sort of return for their franchise player before his career ran out, or before he ran elsewhere as a free agent, the team decided to deal Payton to Milwaukee at the 2002-03 trade deadline in February.

Payton would be reunited with former SuperSonics coach George Karl in Wisconsin, heading up an intriguing backcourt already featuring (fellow soon-to-be free agent) guard Sam Cassell.

To hedge their bets against Payton leaving after the season ended, the Bucks also took in Desmond Mason in the deal, while giving up a first round pick and Ray Allen – who was about to turn 28 and hit his prime.

Karl’s Bucks would go out in the first round that year, with Payton playing just 34 combined regular and postseason games as a Buck. Karl was let go after the season ended, Larry Harris was elevated to general manager, while Cassell and others were shepherded out.

And to hear Payton tell it, he wanted absolutely nothing to do with any sort of deal from Seattle, though he felt the writing was on the wall when former Seattle owner Barry Ackerley sold the team to Howard Schultz.

From a talk with Gary Washburn at the Boston Globe: “When the Ackerleys sold the team it went from being a family team to a business,” said Payton. “The people who took over the team ran their team like a business, like how they made their money, and you can’t do that.

“The Ackerleys ran the team like a family. When we had problems, they would call us in and talk to us. They would call us in and ask us what’s the problem, not try to trade you and tell you, ‘No, you don’t need a contract.’

“You see where [Schultz’s style] got us, leading to another owner moving the team. And we knew he would move it to Oklahoma, we knew that. The Schultz group should have known that, too. We were the longest-standing team in Seattle and we let a guy just come in here and take it.”

“He just messed up our whole [franchise] and people did leave Seattle alone when he owned the team,” said Payton. “That’s why he had to sell it again, because he was struggling. He made a lot of silly moves and the first silly move was getting rid of me.”

It should be noted that Shawn Kemp and Payton led the Seattle Supersonics to the NBA Finals in 1995-96, where they fell to the Chicago Bulls, who went on to win two more championships in 1996-97 and 1997-98.

Payton stayed until Feb. 20, 2003, when he was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks and reunited with Karl.

Payton enjoyed a successful 17-year NBA career, and he’s best known for his 13-year tenure in Seattle, where he established himself as one of the best defensive point guards of all-time.

Payton played 1335 games in the NBA (1233 started), averaging 16.3 points and 6.7 assists over the course of his career. He averaged over 20 points in seven of his 17 seasons, with his career-high average of 24.2 points coming in the 1999-2000 season.

The point guard reached three NBA Finals, appearing in one each for the Sonics, Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat. Payton finally got that elusive first ring as a member of the 2005-06 Heat.

/Yahoo Sports/

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