Gary Payton talks guarding in today’s NBA, Defensive Player of the Year award and more
Gary Payton was a nine-time All-Defensive team member and the last guard to win the Defensive Player of the Year award, back in 1996. He sat down for an interview with The Sporting News on behalf of Hennessy to discuss what he’s been up to and what he thinks of the defensive landscape of the league today.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
The Sporting News: Tell me a bit about what you’re doing with Hennessy.
Gary Payton: Hennessy and the NBA are joining up. It’s the official spirit of the NBA. And what we’re doing is trying to help Black, Latina, Asian-American-owned small businesses across the country.
COVID came and messed up a lot of small businesses. Hennessy is doing a great job of teaming up with the NBA and 17 teams. They’re going to give $2.5 million away and spread it to all of these businesses that have been struck and struggling.
I’ve been a big part of that in my community in Oakland, where I’ve seen a lot of this. And when Hennessy came and wanted to partner with me and the NBA, it was a no-brainer for me because I want to help these guys.
TSN: What kind of advice did you give your son Gary Payton II about defense? That seems to be his calling card on the Warriors.
Payton: What happened was that being around me so much when he was young and seeing a lot of things that I was doing, he just got a knack for it. Especially when he went to Oregon State and followed behind me. I had so many records on defense [at OSU] and he came in a short period of time in two years and broke many of them.
I’m happy for that because right now I’m getting a lot of feedback from a lot of players that tell me, “Your son, I hate when he gets in the game. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it.” And I say, “Yeah, I bet you do hate it.” They’re like, “We just try to get him out of the game and get him away from things.” And that’s what they did against me. They did me the same way.
TSN: What makes him so good on that end?
Payton: I think that he has a mindset. I always tell people when they ask me how to play defense, you have to have a mindset. You have to worry about just trying to stop people.
I think he’s gotten really good at being patient and timing. I always tell him, give the guys about two or three times down the floor to see what they’re going to do because they’re going to do the same thing. And once he times that, they get relaxed. Then all of a sudden, he has the steal.
TSN: There was a viral clip of your son earlier this season. I wonder if you saw it. During a break, he knocked over a fan’s drink. He was super polite, went to the usher, asked for a new drink and got it to the fan.
Party Foul! My apologies for any inconvenience this may have caused lol 🤟🏾 https://t.co/EgRFZ6wgH2
— Gary Payton II (@Garydwayne) December 14, 2021
Payton: Yeah, he’s like that. What makes me so proud of him and proud of my kids is that every time I go to anyone, the first thing they say is they don’t care about his basketball. They care about how polite he is and how much of a gentleman he is and how sweet he is. I’ve been getting that his whole life, and I’m proud of that.
He does that. You saw it when they were playing somewhere else, he stepped on somebody’s brand new Jordans, and he went over there and brushed them off. He’s just that type of kid.
TSN: You were the last guard to win Defensive Player of the Year, back in 1996. Do you think that it’s difficult to appreciate guard defense?
Payton: Yeah, it is very difficult. I think that people don’t do what I did. I used to sit down on people 94 feet and try to disrupt their offense, because if I get a point guard and I disrupt him, I make him turn two or three times before he gets across half court, that takes a lot of time off the shot clock. And then they get into their offense with about 10 to 12 seconds [left on the clock]. That’s not enough time to get into an offense.
We’ve got to understand guards do not do that anymore. My son and I think Marcus Smart are probably the only two that really sit down with people from 94 feet and try to make it very, very difficult for guards to get into their offense.
TSN: Who would your DPOY be?
Payton: That’s a very hard question. If my son were playing a little bit more minutes, I think he’s playing the right minutes for Golden State, but I think he would be the leading candidate because he disrupts a lot of things.
As for minutes, Marcus Smart and [Mikal] Bridges, they’re very much up there. And I think I would go with Marcus Smart. I would give it to him because of minutes. I think that’s what the NBA goes on, of how many plays [you’re in].
TSN: Who would be in your top-five hardest players to guard today?
Payton: That’s a tough one. Durant [one], Morant number two, Doncic three. Kyrie Irving is four. I’ll go with Joker last.
TSN: How would you guard Durant?
Payton: Get underneath him. Make him uncomfortable. He’s so long that he can shoot over you. But you have to get him frustrated, then you have a chance. Get under his skin. A lot of great basketball players, if you let them get in a rhythm, they’re going to kill you. If I get him out of rhythm, then I think I have a chance of slowing him down.