Steve Kelley / Seattle Times staff columnist
Love-hate relationship: Payton's return filled with mixed emotions
LOS ANGELES â€” When he sees a Seattle reporter approach, Gary Payton begins his Gatling gun laugh. As he slowly takes his diamond earrings off, he turns and says, "I know why you're here."
He's told it's a big week in Seattle. It's his homecoming. The best player in franchise history will play his first game in Seattle as a Sonics opponent. He's told the arena will be charged.
"It's not a big week for me," he says. "I want to see the fans. It will be big for me with the fans. But the rest of them, they can kiss my [Swearing is not permitted at Clublakers. You must edit this post prior to submitting.]."
Mightily, Payton, a Sonic for 12-plus seasons, has tried to downplay Friday's return to Seattle. But he can't. His anger for Sonics management still simmers. His desire to humble management in front of a full house is palpable.
Even though his new team, the Los Angeles Lakers, has the best record in basketball at 21-7; and even though he is the Lakers' leader in assists and steals and third in scoring, Payton still seethes about not getting a contract extension two summers ago from Seattle.
He says he has nothing to say to Sonics chairman Howard Schultz, then later he says he hopes Schultz is sitting courtside because, "I have something to say to his punk [Swearing is not permitted at Clublakers. You must edit this post prior to submitting.]."
He tries to shrug off this homecoming, saying it doesn't mean anything. But the more Payton says it doesn't mean anything, the more you know how much it really means.
"I think Gary will be much more emotional than he thinks he will be," said his good friend, Boston forward Vin Baker, before the Celtics played the Lakers on Sunday. "He put in great years. He's a Hall of Famer there. He did great things in that city, both on and off the court. It will be neat to see his return.
"He'll get scooped up in the moment. He'll be overwhelmed. And I think he'll play great. I can tell you this much, he'll try to go for over 30 (points)."
Here's the problem for the Sonics. They want to honor him. They want to have a pregame ceremony acknowledging his return. They want to give their fans the opportunity to say thanks for the 60-win seasons and the 1996 trip to the NBA Finals and the nine straight All-Star appearances.
No delivery: Mailman now headed for injured list
"If I could just jog from free throw line to free throw line, I could play now," Malone said. "I can't cut. May, June is more important than December, January.
"I look like I'm headed there (to the injury list). Going on the list, I'm looking at (missing) five more games, I don't like that. I don't want to go on the list, but I don't want to hold anybody else back."
Lakers coach Phil Jackson said a decision would probably be made Friday night in Seattle before the Lakers face the SuperSonics.
Jackson said Malone definitely won't play at Seattle or against the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday night, and it's very unlikely he'll travel for games at Minnesota and Denver next week.
If Malone is placed on the injured list before Friday night's game, he would also sit out a home game against Atlanta on Jan. 9 and be eligible to return against Cleveland in another home game three days later.
Jackson said if Malone is put on the injured list, it's possible Rick Fox will be activated. Fox, who hasn't played since having surgery to repair a torn tendon in his left foot May 12, has said he's close to being ready to play.
jsm0331 wrote:read today's daily...Phil said he probably won't put Malone on the IR...so there is some good news
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