Gary Payton Signs Conference Call

MIAMI, September 22 -

What went into your decision to sign with the HEAT and why did you choose the HEAT?

Gary Payton: “Basically I felt like there was good chemistry here, predominately because of Shaq (Shaquille O’Neal). Shaq and I are very close and he wanted me to come to the Los Angeles Lakers and he wanted me to come back down here. Pat Riley was a big influence also. He has been trying to get me for a number of years. I thought this would be a good opportunity for me to come and win a championship. Playing with Shaq, Dwyane Wade, Antoine Walker and Jason Williams, it will be a good opportunity for us to try and make a push for a championship.”

When you had heard that Shaq was openly campaigning for you to be part of this team, what did that mean to you?

GP: “That was a big thing. He did the same thing with the Lakers, like I said, we are very close. When he stepped up for me like that, it is hard to say no. He is a great guy and I have respect for him, so for him to do that and give me the opportunity to come and play with him again and end my career with him and hopefully, unlike with the Lakers, win a championship.”

I know over your career you have mostly wanted to stay on the west coast to stay close to your family. Has that been a driving factor over the years to stay on the west coast?

GP: “It is. Basically my whole family is from the west coast. My daughter is in high school and I can’t move her right now. She has friends now and I don’t want to do that. So my wife and I have decided that, they will stay and do what they have to do. They can come twice a month. It was a decision that I wanted to make. It’s not going to be hard, all I have to do is focus on playing basketball and I’ll talk to them on the phone and they are having a good time there. It is kind of far from the east coast, but right now my mind is centered, and I’ll deal with it.”

You have always been a starting point guard and you have heard Pat (Riley) talk about starting Jason Williams at point guard. Can you talk about how difficult that transition will be and is that a transition you have accepted?

GP: “I’m going to try to help Jason as much as possible. He has never had a guy like me to guide him. When I come into camp, I’m going to try to help him. I’m not going to try to beat him up or beat him down. It’s been very hard coming from where I come from, starting all my time, but right now it’s not about that. It’s about what we have to accomplish to get to a championship. When we get in there we should work hard and do what we have to do to help as much as possible.”

You were on a pretty loaded team with the Lakers, and it didn’t work out. What is the key to keeping everybody happy and keeping the chemistry positive?

GP: “First of all, I think we have to keep in mind that we want to win basketball games, and not let our egos get in the way. Everybody on this team has, at one point, been a star or a starter or a bigger part of their team; the go-to guy on their team. Pat has put a team together and we have to understand that we are talking about wins, not who is going to have the points this game. One night I’m going to be hot, another night Antoine might be hot and Shaq is going to be hot every night. We are all going to have to deal with what we all have to deal with and take it in stride. As long as we get wins, we are going to be okay. As long as we keep that mentality while we are working out and through training camp, then I think we will be okay.”

How easy or difficult is that to do, especially with veteran players who have known individual success over the years?

GP: “I think it will be more difficult for the younger guys. I think Antoine and Jason are about that age. But veterans like me, we understand that we only have a certain amount of opportunities to try to win a championship and if people see it as a good opportunity to win a championship, then we can do it. When I was with the Lakers, we had a great opportunity and a lot of things paving our way. We have an opportunity to change what we did. I think that we are going to ride in through it and I think that will be the major focus as training camp comes. I think we are going to have to talk about it a lot. Everyone is going to have to make an adjustment and I think they will make those adjustments.”

Are you looking at this as your final season? How does winning a championship factor into extending your career?

GP: “Right now, I think that I will call it quits in two or three more years. This year is a year for me to come out and just play basketball. I know that I can still play with those guys and be successful. If I win a championship, it might change a lot of things, but I doubt it. I doubt I won’t get greedy and if we win a championship this year, I will want to come back and win one two years in a row. So its up to my body and right now, my mind can still play basketball and I still have love for the game, so for me right now, its just one year at a time.”

What was it like being teammates with Antoine last year and if he has to make sacrifices, how do you think he is going to deal with that?

GP: “Before we became teammates, we were very close friends and we still are. We have grown up enough to understand that. He has been a twenty-point guy for eight or nine years that he has been in the league. So, he is going to be okay. He adjusted really well in Dallas and he knows he is going to have to adjust here. The guys are Shaq and Wade, so we are going to have to milk off that. I think that if they get a good supporting cast and we just play basketball, we can get good things done. But like I said, Shaq may not be there one night, Wade might not be there one night and that’s when we have to step up and put our game to another level so that we can pick up the slack and get a win.”

People might say that this team does not have enough outside shooting. What is your opinion on that? Do you think they might need another shooter?

GP: “Well, yeah, I do think we need another shooter, I think we need a guy that can come in and shoot and I think Pat knows that, he will try to go out and get that. Right now, I think we will be able to stick the jump shot. I think that a lot of us get to the basket, create a lot of foul shots. I think that when Shaq gets double-teamed, we have to knock down the shots and that is what we are going to have to work on.”

Can you size up the East now that you are with the HEAT?

GP: “I think that Indiana and Detroit are going to be strong. A lot of these teams are still contenders for the championship. I think we are going to have to get our cohesion very quickly because a lot of these guys have been together for a long time. We have a lot of new guys coming in that are going to have to learn the system. And we are going to have to get it together right away. I think that is where a lot of people are concerned about us. We have a good shot, we have a lot of talent here and we have to get cohesive very quickly.”

Were you surprised that Pat made the changes that he made, given that they were one game from the Finals?

GP: “Pat has won championships and he knows what to do to get that extra “oomph”. I think that he felt like that extra “oomph” wasn’t there and they needed some more athletes. Look at San Antonio-most of their guys were veteran players in their mid-30s. I think Pat realized he didn’t have that maturity. With Shaq getting hurt and Wade getting hurt, I think he needed someone who could make big shots and big plays. I think he went out and did that.”

What were your impressions of Dwyane Wade and how well do you know Coach Van Gundy?

GP: “I got together with Coach and he is a great guy. What makes him great is that he is from where I’m from, which is the bay area. It’s going to make it even better for me. We are going to keep sitting down, keep chatting, keep breaking each other’s brains, so I can help him and he can help me. When I played against Dwyane, he wasn’t like he was last year. He has made great strides to become a great basketball player and I think I’ll give him a little more help and a little more boost, which is going to make it better for me. It is going to be a joy to help a kid who has this much talent and who has a great ability to become a great basketball player.”