Gary Payton II
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Gary Payton II: Like Father, Not Like Son

by Mark Montieth Writer

You start with the talking. So much talking.

Gary Payton II gets asked about his father at every stop in his tour of NBA pre-draft workouts, the same questions over and over. Obvious questions, sort of necessary questions, but old questions that could wear on anyone after awhile.

Payton II faces them all with a smile, and talks. Talks about his Hall of Fame father, one of the greatest trash talkers in NBA history, who nearly trash-talked his son out of the game in high school but now stands as a primary motivator and mentor. Talks about living up to his father's expectations. Talks about the differences between his father's game and his own. Talks about carving out his own identity despite going to the same college. Talks about having to talk about his father all the time.

Here's the bottom line:

"I think I've proved to him I'm a good basketball player," Payton II said following Thursday's workout for the Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

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Payton II is indeed a good basketball player. Not as good as his dad, who was the second pick in the 1990 draft behind Derrick Coleman and went on to a Hall of Fame career that featured nine All-Star selections and a reputation as one of the game's greatest defenders, but certainly good enough to be considered a lock for the second round in the upcoming NBA draft.

The elder Payton played 12 1/2 of his 17 NBA seasons in Seattle, where Payton II was born and raised. He was the kid tagging along at practice and games, getting up shots whenever he could. That's how he met his dad's teammate and future coach, Nate McMillan, who now coaches the Pacers. McMillan – "he's like an uncle to me," Payton II said – did not attend Thursday's workout because of a conflict at home, but the ghost of Payton's father hovered over the session, as it does everywhere he works out.

Payton II played basketball, football, baseball and soccer in junior high, but concentrated on basketball in high school. His father was on him constantly, and told him he wasn't a good player because he wasn't aggressive enough. Those blunt criticisms nearly drove him from the game at one point, and reduced his emotional investment in the game for awhile, until he learned to separate his father's message from the delivery.

"As I got older, I kind of got away from (dedication to basketball), because of following in my dad's footsteps, trying to be as great as him, and all that," he said. "As I got older, more mature, I got back to it. It was the only sport I understood, so I ran with it.

"In high school, there was a turning point my junior year, where I said, 'I'm not going to worry about it anymore. I'm just going to be my own guy and play my own game.'"

After two years at Salt Lake Community College, he nearly signed with St. Mary's, then shifted to his father's alma mater, Oregon State, at the last minute – proof he was no longer intimidated by his dad's reputation.

With his father chirping from courtside, he was first-team All-Pac 12 and Defensive Player of the Year both seasons there, averaging 16 points, 7.9 rebounds, 5 assists and 2.5 steals as a senior, when he led the Beavers to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since his father played there. Don't gloss over that rebounding stat. He ranks as one of the greatest collegiate rebounding guards of all-time, especially one who stands 6-3. He grabbed 17 rebounds against Cal last season, and 15 against Colorado and USC.

"The ball just finds me," he said, smiling. "I guess I'm in the right spot at the right time. I guess I have a knack to go down there with the bigs and grab the ball."

He's also an outstanding defender, with the hardware to prove it, one who uses his exceptional athleticism and length to get in passing lanes and create havoc.

The primary obstacle between him and the first round is shooting. He hit 32 percent of his 3-pointers last season, and doesn't seem to have a quick release. That's been the focus of his individual work since his college career ended, and an area he believes he's improved. He claimed to have shot well on Thursday.

He also needs to prove he can quarterback a team, make plays in the halfcourt rather than merely attack the basket. And there's one more thing: he's old for a draft prospect, 23 – about five months younger than Pacers guard Joe Young, who has a five-year collegiate career because of a transfer and one NBA season behind him, and two years younger than forward Glenn Robinson III, who has played in two NBA seasons.

Payton II reminds of Robinson III in many ways. Robinson's father, an All-American at Purdue and the first pick in the 1994 NBA Draft, grew up on the streets of Gary and had a degree of toughness and bravado that his son lacks. Payton Sr. grew up on the streets of Oakland, where he honed the same edge. The sons grew up amid wealth, in suburban elegance, and are therefore friendlier and more sophisticated. But while athletic and promising, they so far appear to be somewhat lesser versions of their fathers as players.

Payton's father took him to Oakland when he was in junior high school and made him participate in the playground games where he had played, to try to instill some of what he had learned there.

"That got a little more dog in me," Payton II said.

Payton II said he's never played his father one-on-one. They did engage in a game of H-O-R-S-E last season at Oregon State, although they converted it to P-A-Y-T-O-N. The son won. Dad isn't likely to play again. It was an enjoyable bit of one-upsmanship for a son who always will have to live with comparisons to his father. And listen to his father's critiques, too.

"He's going to say what he's going to say, so you have to listen," he said.

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Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Indiana Pacers. All opinions expressed by Mark Montieth are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Indiana Pacers, their partners, or sponsors.

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June 2, 2016 - After his pre-draft workout, Gary Payton II talked with about what he's trying to prove during his workouts. In his sophomore season at Oregon State, Payton II averaged 16 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 5 assists per game.

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