We remember Gary Payton as “The Glove.” One of the great perimeter defenders in NBA history, a guy who locked horns with Michael Jordan for some memorable battles, including the 1996 NBA finals. Payton the guy that could do it on the other end as well, a floor general who averaged 16.7 points a game over his career. A guy who just got a call to say he was nominated for the Hall of Fame.
We don’t remember him as Gary Payton the guy who struggled the first few years in Seattle. But he did.
“First of all I struggled for three years,” said Payton, speaking as part of the Thuzio launch in Los Angeles. “Really for two years, and then when George Karl got there (to Seattle) my struggles ended because I got a basketball coach that let me do what I wanted to do.”
John Wall has struggled his first couple seasons in the league. Not that he was bad — 16.3 points and 8 assists per game last season — but he wasn’t the No. 1 overall pick, franchise anchor kind of guy the Wizards expected. That Wall expected to be.
To get help, Wall has reached out to Payton to learn how to overcome those struggles, how to fit his game into the NBA and succeed
“Me and him have talked a lot on the phone,” Payton told ProBasketballTalk. “He has called me about the situation, the same situation (I was in) to learn about things, and I’ve been talking to him about things and I’ve been talking to him a lot….
“With John Wall I think he understood that he has to get better and he has to go work out and he has to go improve on those things. I think if he knows he’s not good at something, he’ll go workout at it. And that’s what I respect a lot about him and a lot about his game. And I know he’s going to get better because I know he’s got the mentality that he wants to get better, he wants to learn from other people, he wants to take advice from people and he wants to get better.”
What he needs to get better on is his jump shot — last season he shot 27.4 percent beyond 10 feet and he took more than six shots from there a game. Defenses could play back, go under the pick, dare him to beat them with an outside shot. Wall is lightning quick with the ball, dangerous in transition, but could be contained in the half court because of his jumper.
This season, back just three games from a knee injury that kept him out of training camp and nearly half the regular season, it’s too early to say if that shot has developed. But Payton is convinced Wall will get there.
“With John, he’s a kid that wants to learn and that’s the good thing about him,” Payton said. “He can sit there and listen and take criticism, and call players that he’s watched in his young years to ask for assistance. Some of these kids now days think they are so good that they can’t ask anybody for anything,”
Payton hasn’t gotten to a Wizards game this season, he is on the other coast right now. He is very busy with charity foundations, writing a book, working with Nike on the re-launch of “The Glove” shoe this fall (we’ll have more from our Payton interview over the next couple days). And he is working with Thuzio in Los Angles, a company that allows people and corporations to book events or dinners — or even pick-up games — with famous former athletes like Payton.
But he’s also watching Wall — a guy that the Wizards can extend this summer from his rookie deal. The Wizards have a decision to make, if they don’t extend him Wall becomes a restricted free agent in the summer of 2014. They don’t want to lose him, especially if he is going to become the player Gary Payton thinks he can be.
And Payton should know, he’s been there.