NBA Superlatives: Pelicans guard Elfrid Payton

by Jim Eichenhofer

New Orleans point guard Elfrid Payton is playing for his third different NBA team over the past nine months. The early returns at stop No. 3 are very promising. Now in his fifth NBA season, the No. 10 overall pick of the 2014 draft has helped lead the Pelicans to a 3-0 start, their best in eight years. In his bid to reach the playoffs for the first time as a pro, the Gretna native is averaging 13.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game. Payton recently sat down with to discuss some of the most notable aspects of his time in the NBA:  

Most memorable moments in the NBA: “Getting drafted; my first triple-double; being traded to Phoenix and playing in that first game there; signing to play at home in New Orleans.”

Most memorable dunk in the NBA: “A putback dunk against the Bulls over Taj Gibson.”

Most embarrassing moment in the NBA: “We were playing the Lakers or the Clippers and I got a steal, but I couldn’t pick up the ball at all on a fast break. The ball went out of bounds. I always make fun of people when that happens, even in football, but then it happened to me.”

Most surprising thing about the NBA as a rookie: “The 82-game season. I played in all 82 games that year, but it is a big adjustment. In college, you only play 35 games, but in the NBA, you’ve already played that many games by the end of December. It takes a while to wrap your mind around that.”

Toughest players to face at his position: “There are so many good players at point guard. Chris Paul is tough because he is a student of the game. Russell Westbrook because of his aggressiveness and he’s always going – he doesn’t really have a shot he doesn’t like. Stephen Curry is tough because even when he passes the ball, you can’t relax. He passes the ball, then immediately runs (to get open). You always have to be on edge as a defender when guarding him. Kemba Walker is shorter than most point guards today, which helps make him so shifty. It’s a challenge playing against him.”

Most underrated player in the NBA: “Phoenix forward T.J. Warren. His team hasn’t really won much, and (most of the individual attention there goes) to Devin Booker, but T.J. is one of the most talented people in the league, especially his scoring ability. He has a mid-range shot, gets to the rim and can just get you a bucket.”

Favorite road arenas: “New York because of the history of Madison Square Garden; Golden State because of the energy. Also, Utah – I don’t know what it is about their gym, maybe how close the fans sit to the court, but it feels like a college atmosphere. That’s one of the best arenas to play in. I love playing there.”

Favorite road trips, based on the city: “Houston, Miami, Los Angeles. It used to be when I came to New Orleans, but now this is a home game for me.” [smiles]