It’s official: Gary Payton, Bernard King in Hall of Fame

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By the time the formal announcement is made, there is no suspense left in who makes the Naismith Hall of Fame. The news has leaked out. Occasionally incorrectly at first, but it leaks out.

Still, it’s now official — NBA legends Gary Payton and Bernard King will enter the hall this September. Here is an official rundown of the class.

• Gary Payton: A lock-down defender who is one of the greatest point guards of his generation, a nine-time All-Star, NBA Defensive Player of the Year, two-time gold medalist and the face of Seattle Sonics basketball. He has an NBA championship as well (Miami 2006).

“When I started playing basketball and got in the NBA I just wanted to be a guy in the NBA doing something,” Payton said in a televised interview on a stage in Atlanta with the other inductees. “But even as my career went on and started getting better and better I still never thought about being in the Hall of Fame.

“When I think about it, I don’t even feel like I’m here now. It’s such a dream.”

• Bernard King: The Knicks swingman was one of the greatest pure scorers of all time. He averaged 22.5 points per game during a 15-year career and had some monster playoff runs, like 1984 when he averaged 34.8 points per game. This was long overdue, glad to see it happen.

“I’d like to say this was a dream, but you can’t dream of something like this,” Kings said from the Hall of Fame stage.

• Richie Guerin: A native New Yorker who played for the Knicks, is a six-time All-Star guard known for his feisty style of play.

• Roger Brown: One of the great players of the ABA all time, a four time All-Star in that league.

• Oscar Schmidt: The Brazilian legend should already have been in, he is a five-time Olympian who remains the only player with more than 1,000 points in the Olympics.

• Russ Granik: David Stern’s former right hand man for years. Helped clear way for NBA players to be in Olympics.

• Also in are Rick Pitino (college coaching legend), Jerry Tarkanian (college coaching legend), Dawn Staley (WNBA legend, three time gold medalist), Sylvia Hatchell (North Caronia’s women’s college coach), Guy Lewis (University of Houston college coach including the Phi Slama Jama years), and George Raveling, the longtime college coach enters on a lifetime achievement award.

Watch Pacers fan boo Paul George during introductions (video)

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Paul George – who told the Pacers he’d leave in free agency, prompting them to trade him to the Thunder – expected boos in his return to Indiana.

Pacers fans delivered.

They’ve also booed him every time he has touched the ball, which will certainly persist.

John Wall returns for Wizards-Grizzlies

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Point guard John Wall was in the Washington Wizards’ lineup Wednesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies after missing nine games with a sore left knee.

Coach Scott Brooks said Wall would play in the mid-20-minute range, perhaps a bit more.

The Wizards (14-13), currently in first place in the Southeast Division, went 4-5 in Wall’s absence.

“He such a force offensively,” Brooks said of Wall. “He’s a two-way player and he’s one of the few guys in the league that can find open 3-point shooters going 100 miles an hour in transition.”

Wall, 27, is averaging 20.3 points and 9.2 assists per game.

Pacers president Kevin Pritchard likes tweets critical of Paul George trade

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Pacers general manager Kevin Pritchard was widely panned – including by me – for trading Paul George for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.

Oops.

Oladipo and Sabonis are killing it while George has underwhelmed.

Upon George’s return to Indiana, Pritchard took the opportunity to gloat. The Pacers general manager recently liked these tweets (hat tip: Matt Ellentuck of SB Nation):

This is petty – and I love it. Pritchard earned the victory lap.

Report: Rival executives still expect Paul George to leave Thunder for Lakers

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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Paul George has been pretty open about his plans.

He told plenty of people – including the Pacers – he planned to leave for the Lakers in the summer of 2018. Even after the Thunder traded for him, George spoke of the lure of playing for his hometown team.

Of course, George also left the door open to re-signing with Oklahoma City. He proclaimed he’d be dumb to leave if the Thunder reached the conference finals or upset the Warriors.

So far, Oklahoma City (12-14) doesn’t even look like a playoff lock, let alone a team capable of knocking off Golden State or reaching the conference finals. So, cue the inevitable speculation.

Sam Amick of USA Today:

Rival execs still expect Paul to head for the Lakers in free agency

Do these executives have inside information into George’s thinking, or are they just speculating based on already-available information? Some executives are incentivized to drum up the Lakers threat, because they want to trade for George themselves now. If these executives insist George will leave for Los Angeles regardless, they might pry him from Oklahoma City for less.

There’s also a theory George is hyping his desire to sign with the Lakers so a team would have to trade less for him. That got him to the Thunder for what looked like a meager return (but hasn’t been). It might get him to a more favorable situation before the trade deadline without hampering his next team long-term. Of course, this theory isn’t mutually exclusive with George actually signing in Los Angeles. It could just get him better options to choose from this summer.

Surely, the Thunder are trying to parse all this noise. If their season doesn’t turn around, they should explore flipping George rather than risk losing him for nothing next summer. But they should also be wary that he’ll bolt for Los Angeles at first opportunity just because rival executives predict it.