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Breaking it down
Payton's unhappy, had to say something

By BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

The new lads in La-La-Land weren't supposed to be the ones causing trouble.

When the Los Angeles Lakers signed Gary Payton and Karl Malone last summer, the thinking was their heretofore unfulfilled championship aspirations would keep the wandering minds of Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant focused on the task at hand.

But this past weekend, Payton provided his own distraction by openly complaining about his court time in what a newspaper report described as a calm but pointed five-minute monologue.

"I didn't come here to sit on the bench," Payton said. "I've been trying to hold it in, but it's a problem for me right now.

"I want to play. I don't know what they're trying to do. I'm trying to stay away from controversy, but controversy is going to come if I keep sitting on the bench."

And, of course, the Lakers know nothing of controversy already, right? But to be fair, they're used to it coming from O'Neal, Bryant and coach Phil Jackson, not Payton.

The veteran point guard still is averaging almost 34 minutes a game, but he is used to playing 40-plus.

"This is (Jackson's) team and he has to coach it the way he's going to coach it," Payton said. "But I'm not hurt. I've played 40 minutes per game for the past 14 years.

"Whatever's going on, I can adjust to it. But I'll wait till the end of the season and then I'll make adjustments. I have to weigh a lot of things. Do I want to go back to being the guy I want to be, dominating on the ball, getting more looks, helping the team win? I have to go to a coach who's going to let me do that."

Those last few sentences amounted to a veiled threat, since Payton is eligible to opt out of his contract this summer.

When Payton was reminded that he and Malone had agreed to sacrifice some elements of their individual games when they joined the Lakers, Payton snorted, "Not this kind of sacrifice."

Thus proving once again that in the world of professional athletics, the term "sacrifice" is far easier to say than to do.

WHERE'S JOSEY WALES?

The NBA is going to play host to more dramatic returns this week that an old Clint Eastwood cowboy movie.

Tonight in Sacramento with the Los Angeles Clippers providing the opposition, Kings forward Chris Webber is due to play his first game this season. He has been out with a knee injury for most of the campaign and missed the past eight games while on league suspension because he lied to a U.S. federal grand jury about accepting illegal benefits while he was a college player at Michigan.

Tomorrow in Portland will mark the return of former Trail Blazers bad-boy Bonzi Wells and the Memphis Grizzlies.

Then on Thursday, also in Portland, the No. 1 former Blazers bad-boy of all time, Rasheed Wallace, will strut back into the Rose Garden with the swaggering Detroit Pistons.

"It will be a little more heated than usual, I suspect," Blazers coach Maurice Cheeks predicted.

On Friday in L.A., there's a possibility Malone may be ready to return from his two-month absence due to a knee injury. The Lakers play host to the Seattle SuperSonics that night.

"That's my medical decision," a hopeful Payton said. "(Malone) is coming back Friday."

And finally, also on Friday evening, former Raptors coach Lenny Wilkens and his new team, the New York Knicks, will take on the Raptors at the Air Canada Centre. The Knicks looked great for a while after Knicks general manager Isiah Thomas made the coaching change, but now they've dropped to a mediocre 10-11 with Wilkens at the helm.

FAST BREAKS

Wallace arrived at a recent game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles wearing a red Montreal Canadiens jersey with NHL Hall of Famer Guy Lafleur's No. 10 on the back. Always figured 'Sheed to be more of a Pierre Bouchard man ... There were many who thought it was a bad idea when the Charlotte Hornets moved to football-obsessed New Orleans before last season, and those people now are saying, "We told you so." As of the end of February, New Orleans ranked second last in the NBA in home attendance this season with an average of 14,274. Only the Atlanta Hawks were worse, with an average of 13,721 ... With Kevin Garnett, Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell of the Minnesota Timberwolves appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated this week, coach Flip Saunders was asked if he's worried about the legendary SI cover jinx: "I know Michael Jordan has been on the cover a lot. So has Tiger Woods. And they had pretty good success after being on the cover. It just depends how good you are." We admire the confidence, Flip, but maybe the T-Wolves should win a playoff series for the first time in franchise history before you start referencing Jordan and Woods.









Do you like the new-look Raptors heading into the 2013-14 NBA season?
  Yes, new GM made great moves
  No, they will still be a terrible team
  Unsure what to make of it


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