Payton screams at super-sloppy Sonics

  • FRANK HUGHES / The News Tribune
  • Monday, November 6, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports


The News Tribune

ORLANDO, Fla. – It would be one thing if the Seattle SuperSonics were playing well, looking fluid, appearing as if they were trying hard yet lost the game.

But the fact that they looked almost completely lost, played bad transition defense and lost the game, this time a 110-99 decision to the Orlando Magic before 12,460 at T.D. WaterHouse Centre on Monday night, well, that makes it especially frustrating. Particularly since the Magic were without All-Star forward Grant Hill.

That Seattle continued its staggering amount of turnovers, this time committing 25 miscues that led to 34 Orlando points, that they permitted Orlando to shoot 61 percent in the second half, that they gave the Magic 20 fastbreak points, was enough for somebody finally to say something.


After the game, a torrent of screams were heard from Seattle’s locker room. And while everybody was keeping quiet on the subject, it was apparent that the vitriol was coming from Gary Payton, and aimed at everybody else on the team.

“We didn’t do the things we were supposed to do,” said Payton, who had seven turnovers. “(Forget) the turnovers. I don’t give a (darn) about the turnovers. We just ain’t playing well. Turnovers ain’t going to do nothing for us. We turned the ball over when we was still in the game. We didn’t do other things, that’s all.”

Other things?

“A lot of things. I can’t tell you one. A lot of things. We need a lot of things on this team. We need a lot of (stuff) around here. We ain’t jelling. That’s called losing. And I’m tired of it.”

Payton clearly wasn’t the only one with pent-up frustration. All season, Vin Baker has been seemingly singled out by the officials for offensive fouls.

He was called for several Monday night, but it was an emotional one that got him taken out of the game.

With less than a minute to go, Baker was boxing out Bo Outlaw during a free throw. Baker elbowed Outlaw, who then said some rather choice words to Baker.

As they were running down the court, Baker chest-bumped Outlaw and was called for an offensive foul. Westphal removed him from the game. On the way to the sideline, Baker spit in the middle of the court. Westphal tried to say something to Baker as he headed to the bench, but Baker shrugged off Westphal, sat on the floor and banged his elbow against the side barrier.

Baker left the locker room without speaking to reporters.

“He was a little frustrated,” Westphal said. “I didn’t want him to get in any incident where he gets suspended.”

This type of slow start probably could have been predicted, given the Sonics, who dropped to 1-3, added six new faces to the roster, including starting center Patrick Ewing and starting shooting guard Desmond Mason.

But the Sonics had such a promising exhibition season that it may have created false hopes of a seamless transition.

But that is far from the case now. The team is averaging more than 21 turnovers a game, and some of them seem as if the players have never been on a basketball court together.

Besides Payton’s seven, Baker and rookie Mason had four turnovers apiece, Ewing and Ruben Patterson had three each and Shammond Williams had two.

Some of turnovers, however, were not entirely Payton’s fault. The Magic were trapping Payton in the backcourt, and the Sonics either did not come back to help him, or they did not have enough ballhandlers in the game to effectively bring the ball up the court.

“They did a good job,” Payton said. “They knew what they were going to do. They knew if they took the ball out of my hands, it makes other people handle the ball. And then they played passing lanes, and we’re not cutting and we’re not holding on to the ball.

“We just got to make better decisions on a lot of stuff. We got to listen to the scouting reports. That’s what we got to do. We got to go in in the morning and listen. Right now there are 12 of us, and we got to get together. Right now, some person is over here and some person is over there. We got to get a practice in and get together.”

With Brent Barry out of the lineup, the Sonics miss his additional ballhandling, particularly since Mason does not have those skills yet.

But Westphal said he will not make changes to the starting lineup, even as the Sonics head to Miami and Charlotte on this five-game trip.

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