When you think about former players who translate to successful coaches most people name point guards. Is there anyone who doubts Gary Payton would make a good coach? He's a Hall of Famer, one filled with basketball knowledge, who is respected and well spoken. With his interested peaked, could Phil Jackson give Payton an opportunity as an assistant on Derek Fisher's coaching staff?
Right now Gary Payton is enjoying life in Los Angeles. His playing days are well over, he's worked as an on-air personality and he's now enjoying retirement. Would he really be willing to put in all the time needed to be an assistant coach in the NBA?
Does he want to teach? Does he want to travel again? Does he want to watching and breaking down film? While retirement is nice, he loves basketball. As he's seen more and more of his former competitors join the coaching ranks he's started to think about doing the same.
Payton is an analyst for Fox Sports 1's Fox Sports Live and was recently asked about reported interest from Jason Kidd with the Milwaukee Bucks and Byron Scott with the Los Angeles Lakers in Payton joining their coaching staffs.
Clearly, Payton is interested in coaching and even talked about becoming an NBA head coach. So what's the hold up? Well, he may be good friends with both Kidd and Scott but working for your friends isn't always a healthy thing. Especially when one of them, Kidd, is known for being pretty terrible to his assistant coaches.
That being said, New York also has a connection to Payton. One that he may find easier to put at risk. Payton played for Phil Jackson from 2003-04. As an unrestricted free agent, Payton, along with Karl Malone, signed with the Los Angeles Lakers to make a run at their first NBA Championship. The Lakers reached the NBA Finals but fell to the Detroit Pistons in five games.
Payton actually struggled in the triangle offense because it limited his ball-handling and post-up opportunities. However, he knows the system. He also knows how to run an offense and how to play defense.
Between his knowledge of several systems after playing for the Seattle SuperSonics, Milwaukee Bucks, Lakers, Boston Celtics and Miami Heat over a seventeen-year career and the respect he garners from modern-day players, Payton could make an ideal assistant.
Perhaps his biggest problem would be the lack of physical play allowed in today's NBA. “The Glove” was able to bump players, use his body and hand checks to force opponents in certain directions. In today's game, Payton might foul out in the first quarter.
That being said, players like Iman Shumpert, Tim Hardaway Jr. and J.R. Smith could greatly benefit from some of Payton's knowledge. He might even get Jose Calderon to put out a decent effort on the defensive end. What Payton can't teach on the physical end he can certainly make up for when it comes to defensive positioning, fundamentals and knowing of other systems.
On top of that, Payton wasn't just a defensive stopper. The man could score. There's no reason why his all-around point guard skills and knowledge wouldn't translate to the coaching ranks. He knows the game. Maybe Jackson would be willing to give him a chance to prove it.
Besides, if there's anyone who knows about making the move from Los Angeles to New York it would be Jackson. Perhaps the opportunity to join his former coach in a huge basketball market and work with his former teammate, Derek Fisher, would be enough to get him to come to the East Coast.
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