From becoming a star at Skyline High School to earning a scholarship at Oregon State to a 17-year NBA career that eight years ago landed him in the Hall of Fame, Gary Payton is one of Oakland’s loudest, proudest success stories.
Payton never came close to suiting up for the Warriors, the NBA team that played its games a short drive from his childhood home.
Which is why his son, Gary Payton II, also a point guard, represents a warm story in waiting. Or so he hopes.
“The plan is to go into training camp and fight it out for a spot,” he said Wednesday, after providing considerable zeal in Golden State’s 90-84 win over the Raptors in the Las Vegas Summer League. “I think I’m pretty fit to cut that out. We’re going to see what happens, and hopefully, I’ll be there for that first game.”
As a member of the Summer League team, the younger Payton is playing hungry with the hope that he can fill what likely will be the final spot on the roster. Even though the franchise moved across the bay two years ago, it’s a chance to wear the jersey of the team his late paternal grandparents once followed.
The odds are long. He’s 28 years old and has spent five years bouncing about various places in the NBA and the G-League, most recently with the Warriors late last season.
“I feel confident,” said Payton, who was born in Seattle, when his dad played for the Sonics. “The way they play and the way I play, it’s a perfect fit. 30 (Stephen Curry) is going to have the ball, so all I have to do is cut, make the right plays, hit open shots like I’ve been doing here, and just continue to play defense.”
Yes, defense. If GP II comes out of training camp with a job, it’s because of that.
“Gary showed what he could do last season,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr told NBC Sports Bay Area Wednesday night. “We like him a lot. He’s great defensively and brings a ton of energy to the game at both ends.”
Golden State’s top backcourt defender, Klay Thompson, missed the past two seasons and is not expected to return before 2022. The team’s best backcourt defenders last season, Kelly Oubre Jr. and Kent Bazemore, left for other teams. The offseason additions, so far, are four wings and a big man. The Warriors do not have a defense-first guard locked onto the roster. There is a need, as nine of the top 15 scorers in the NBA last season were guards. GP II’s relentless intensity on that end – inherited from his dad – constitutes his best path to a belated place in the NBA.
The Warriors liked him enough last season to sign him to a 10-day contract. And then another. That was enough to offer a non-guaranteed contract that becomes guaranteed if he’s on the roster opening night.
GP II is not as polished as his father but is appreciably more athletic. At 6-foot-2, he contributes all over the floor, dunks with ease, and is willing to attack big defenders at the rim. He was terrific against Toronto, scoring 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting, including 3-of-3 from distance. He also had five assists, five rebounds and two steals in finishing a team-best plus-22 over 26 minutes.
The efficient shooting beyond the arc is significant because Payton never has offered much deep shooting, posting numbers below 30 percent at both the NBA and G League levels.
“I’m going to take the right shots,” he said. “Since I’ve been here . . . just take wide-open shots. Gotta make the open shots. It feels great. That’s all I’ve been doing this summer, just taking the right shots and shooting game-like shots that I’m going to get in the regular season.”
Or so he hopes, knowing how special it would be to do it in the Bay Area.