Gary Payton

Gary Payton talks Lillard, D-Will and guarding Jordan

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We look at today’s NBA as almost a new golden age of point guards — Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo, Tony Parker, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, and the list goes on and on.

It’s a very different era from when Gary Payton was at the peak of his career. Back then Payton could body up on Michael Jordan or Tim Hardaway to defend them — he could hand check, hook them a little, be physical with them on the perimeter. Today, any little contact on the perimeter is whistled as a foul.

It’s a different world, one Payton is not sure he could be the same player in. Of course, the reverse is true of today’s best point guards in his era, the legendary Sonic said.

“It would be very hard for me to adjust because I was very aggressive,” Payton told ProBasketballTalk. “I was an aggressive basketball player. I probably wouldn’t be on the floor too often because I would have to be aggressive. Today you would have to adjust by being a finesse basketball player and just scoring. I don’t know….

“A lot of these players are very explosive and I couldn’t have been pressing up on them. But in our day these guys would have had a lot of problems because we can hand check, we can hold you, we could do a lot of things and you couldn’t go nowhere. We would have been doubling up and jumping out and a lot of players would have been getting hit. It just would have been a little bit different.”

Payton now spends time at his California home, working on his charitable foundations that help youth in Oakland where he grew up. He’s working with Nike to re-release “The Glove” signature shoes, but updated (kind of like Nike did with Penny Hardaway’s shoes recently). And Payton’s working to launch Thuzio in Los Angeles, a company that sets people or organizations up with athletes to come speak at an event or just go to a dinner party.

Payton also is watching a lot of basketball. And what point guards is he watching?

“I like Damian Lillard because he’s from Oakland, California, and he’s a phenomenal basketball player,” Payton said. “He should be the rookie of the year, he’s playing very well right now for Portland and I love his game.

“I’ve been watching Deron Williams for a long period of time now and I like him. He is the epitome of an old-school basketball player. He just goes out there and gets it done, he’s not about being fancy, going through your legs three or four times, pulling up in your face. He just gets it done. He just gets what he has to get, gets his assists, gets his rebounds, gets his points and just gets his team to win.”

Payton talked about a number of other topics with PBT as well (which you can hear more of in his own words in our Friday prodcast):

• On being nominated for the Hall of Fame: “It’s showing a lot of people have respected the things I’ve done in basketball and it’s showing I’ve done a lot in basketball. And I’m really happy for it. Not a lot of people can get in the Hall of Fame, it’s a great honor. I hope that I can make it.”

• On the NBA possibly returning to Seattle soon: “I don’t like to talk about it until it is done. Hopefully it will be there, hopefully it will come back. The Seattle people deserve it very much, they’ve been going on without basketball for seven years now and hopefully that can be done. It would be a great deal for the city of Seattle.”

• On defending Michael Jordan: “What you’ve got to understand is Michael Jordan couldn’t be stopped he could just be contained because he was a great offensive player. He could get to the free throw line. He could jump over you. He had great moves, he did a lot of things.”

“What I tried to do was tie him up, to get a little frustrated, and hopefully I could do that and it worked sometimes. But he would still get his 25-30 points because a guy like that, when he shoots the ball as many times as Michael Jordan does you can’t stop him. He’s going to make baskets and get to the free throw line. So I just tried to contain him. Just tie him up, don’t let him get the ball easy, don’t let him get in his comfort zone, make things difficult for him and try to get him frustrated where he’ll foul you and get in a little foul trouble, then something good will happen for me.”

• Payton is working with John Wall and helping the Wizards guard adjust to the NBA.

• On his charity work: “I work with kids now, try to get them out of the neighborhood, try to get them scholarships, because their families and their parents can’t give them enough money to get out. I give five scholars scholarships a year. In Oakland I have a youth center.”

• On the recent trash talk incident between Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Garnett, and report KG said something about ‘Melo’s wife: “That’s just disrespectful. It’s just the same thing where you can’t say something about somebody’s mom, or their father that was just sick and died or something. There’s just a fine line that you go to.

“You can talk the stuff but this this is nothing but a game. When it gets personal and people get their feelings involved then these guys can do anything. They start wanting to see you off the court and things like that. So we got to keep it a little bit under control.”

• And he was clearly excited about Thuzio and getting to mean fans through it: “It’s a good thing with Thuzio because it gives fans a lot of the memorable things with athletes that they really, really wanted to meet for a long time. There’s people who are like ‘Wow, I wish I could meet Gary Payton.’ Now Thuzio is giving you the opportunity to do that. You can come and have me as a coach, you can have me as a dinner partner, that is something that can be memorable for someone for the rest of their life.”

Raptors hold on in overtime, even series with Heat

TORONTO, ON - MAY 03:  Kyle Lowry #7 of the Toronto Raptors hits a half-court buzzer beater to tie Game One and send it into overtime during the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Miami Heat during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at the Air Canada Centre on May 3, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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It wasn’t pretty, but the Toronto Raptors came away with a win and salvaged a tied series in their first two home games. For the second consecutive game, they went to overtime with the Miami Heat, only this time, it was the Heat that came up cold at the end, and Toronto prevailed, 96-92.

From an efficiency standpoint, Kyle Lowry wasn’t much better than he’s been thus far in the postseason, shooting just 7-for-22 from the field, but he hit two key jumpers in the final minutes of regulation that extended Toronto’s lead, forcing Miami to play from behind and tying the game on threes from Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic.

But it was Jonas Valanciunas who proved most effective late for Toronto. He finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds, and for long stretches, the only reliable offense for the Raptors was dumping the ball in to him. Valanciunas bailed the Raptors out late with a rebound and tip-in to break an 80-80 tie after DeMar DeRozan (who shot a forgettable 9-for-24 on the night) missed two consecutive free throws.

The Heat failed to score in the first three minutes of overtime, and their continued penchant for turning the ball over did them in several times down the stretch as they failed to execute.

A bright spot for Miami was Dragic, who scored 20 points on 8-for-12 shooting despite receiving eight stitches to his lower lip after catching an elbow in the first half.

Splitting the first two home games isn’t ideal for the Raptors, but they had every opportunity to go down 2-0 after controlling most of the first three quarters and managed to prevail. Plus, Lowry’s late-fourth-quarter heroics could be enough to get him going again.

Damian Lillard gets tested by Warriors, looks for rebound

OAKLAND, CA - MAY 03:  Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers stands on the court during their game against the Golden State Warriors in Game Two of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs on May 3, 2016 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) First it was a chest cold, then it was a fourth-quarter dry spell. The start of Damian Lillard‘s playoff series against the Golden State Warriors has been rough.

And as Lillard goes, often the rest of the Trail Blazers follow.

Portland is down 2-0 in its Western Conference semifinal series against the defending NBA champions. And it certainly won’t get much easier when the series shifts north Saturday – even though presumptive league MVP Stephen Curry is unlikely to return from a knee injury.

But Lillard and his team have a history of stepping up after getting knocked down. In fact, that’s been the theme of their whole season.

“I know the kind of guys I’m running with. Besides that, we’ve answered the call all season long. We’ve been in bad positions time and time again, and we’ve never shied away. We’ve never not answered the call. I don’t see why this time it would be any different,” he said.

Lillard, who averaged 25.1 points and 6.8 assists during the regular season, scored 25 points in the Blazers’ 110-99 loss in Game 2 on Tuesday night, including 17 points in the third quarter. But the Warriors held him scoreless (0-for-3 from the field) in the crucial final period when they came from behind to win, outscoring Portland 34-12. Portland only scored six points over the last 5:21.

With a day off on Wednesday, Lillard let the loss digest.

“After the game I was pretty frustrated by not being able to finish that game. Yesterday I didn’t even want to see a basketball,” he said. “I wasn’t even gonna watch the playoff game until I heard Cleveland was hitting a bunch of 3s. So I wanted to see for myself, but I didn’t even want to have nothing to do with basketball after that game.”

In the series opener, Lillard started cold but eventually scored 30 points in a 118-106 loss. The Oakland native admitted later to battling a cold afterward. On Thursday, he said he was healthy.

Lillard made a playoff splash in 2014 when his buzzer-beating 3-pointer against the Rockets sent the Blazers into the second round for the first time in 14 years.

But he was the lone starter left with the Blazers this season after the departures of LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, Robin Lopez and Wesley Matthews. Some expected the Blazers to only win about two dozen games.

Lillard tends to rise when he’s the underdog, however. Led by Lillard and backcourt teammate CJ McCollum, a first-year starter, the Blazers overcame a 2-10 stretch in November to wind up the fifth seed in the West.

A two-time All-Star, Lillard was snubbed this year. How did he respond? By dropping 51 points, including nine 3-pointers, in a 137-105 victory over – wait for it – the Golden State Warriors. Lillard shot over Curry at will in that Feb. 19 victory, one of just nine losses for the Warriors in a record-setting 73-win season.

Knowing the Blazers are capable will be key Saturday night.

“We’ll have bounce. We came back after 0-2 against the Clippers (in the opening round) and came with a lot of energy in Game 3. We know how important Game 3 is,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “Having energy, having bounce, at the Moda Center, with our crowd? That’s the least of our concerns.”

Lillard also struggled in the opening two games against the Clippers in the first round. Portland came back to win the next four to win the series, but the Clippers were hurt when their top two scorers, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, were knocked out with injuries.

The Warriors also get credit for Lillard’s struggles after making defensive adjustments on both Lillard and McCollum, particularly the play of Festus Ezeli.

“They are so explosive and they run really good stuff, I mean, it’s hard to guard. You have to cover a lot of floor against Portland, and I thought between Festus and Draymond (Green), those guys did a great job of protecting the feed and moving and handling the pick-and-roll on top,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr.

Lillard said the Blazers would learn from it.

“It hurts to go back in the locker room after you play so well for so long and you come back in there with the L. But it is a part of growth,” he said. “The entire season has been growth for us.”

Erik Spoelstra calls Frank Vogel’s firing “disturbing”

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 28:  Head coach Erik Spoelstra of the Miami Heat reacts as he coaches in the first half against the Indiana Pacers during Game Four of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on May 28, 2013 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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One thing that’s a constant in the NBA: coaches always stick up for each other. That’s what happened on Thursday, when Pacers president Larry Bird announced that he was letting Frank Vogel go. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who coached against Vogel in three memorable playoff series during the big three era, was unhappy to hear the news of Vogel’s fate and lamented the state of coaching, which has very little job security.

Via Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:

“I think it’s really disturbing, actually. I’ve only been a head coach for eight years. So what am I, the second-longest-tenured?” Spoelstra asked, with Casey in his sixth season as Toronto coach and only Gregg Popovich, in his 20th season with the San Antonio Spurs, on the bench longer. “That’s a sad state of where the coaching profession is right now and stability of organizations.”

Spoelstra and Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle are the second longest-tenured coaches in the league, behind only Gregg Popovich. Already this offseason, there have been five coaching changes in addition to Vogel’s: Luke Walton replaced Byron Scott with the Lakers, Tom Thibodeau replaced Sam Mitchell with the Timberwolves, Scott Brooks replaced Randy Wittman in Washington, and the Rockets and Kings jobs are still unfilled. The Knicks job could potentially turn over as well, if Phil Jackson opts not to bring back Kurt Rambis.

This is on top of five coaches who were fired during the season: Kevin McHale in Houston, Derek Fisher in New York, Jeff Hornacek in Phoenix, Lionel Hollins in Brooklyn and David Blatt in Cleveland. That’s a third of the league since the 2015-16 season began. Spoelstra is right about the instability, but that’s part of the business.

Photos: Bucks unveil interior of new arena

BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 25:  Jabari Parker #12 of the Milwaukee Bucks runs down court during the third quarter against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden on February 25, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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The Milwaukee Bucks are set to open their new arena in time for the start of the 2018-19 season, and now they’ve unveiled the first renderings of the inside of the building. They’re pretty nice.

Here’s the court:

There will also be several public bars out in the concourse:

It’s decidedly more modern than the aging BMO Harris Bradley Center, although that building is one of the most fun atmospheres in the league to watch a game in. Hopefully the new place can recapture that vibe.