As Gary Payton II walked away from his South Bay Lakers teammates during halftime to take a shot on a separate basket, it was clear his first game in the team’s uniform wasn’t going how he would’ve hoped.
Payton mouthed the words to the music blaring throughout the UCLA Health Training Center at halftime before firing two quick shots and getting set to walk back towards his teammates before he saw some friends in the stands, who he laughed and joked with for a moment before rejoining South Bay for the second half.
Whether it was the time to clear his head or the smiles he shared with his supporters, something clicked for Payton in the second half.
After scoring seven points to go with five rebounds and four assists in the first half, Payton played 17 minutes in the second half and finished with a 14-point, 12-rebound, 11-assist triple-double off of the bench.
It showcased exactly the types of versatile skills Payton wants to show he can bring to a team. “Just a spark off the bench,” Payton told Lakers Nation before the game of what he hoped to bring both the Lakers and their G League affiliate.
“Defensively, just make stops and playmaking for everybody. We’ve got a lot of shooters on both teams so just be a playmaker and make the right decision.”
Those are simple goals, simpler than one might expect from a player of Payton’s basketball pedigree. His father, Gary Payton, is a Hall-of-Famer who played for the Lakers but is most famous for his time as the centerpiece of the Seattle Supersonics.
The younger Payton says he’s past the point where he feels pressure to live up to his legendary father. “He had his generation. This is my generation now so I just try to play my game,” Payton said.
Payton’s game is reminiscent of his father’s in small ways, like the tough-nosed, aggressive defense he plays that is already impressing his teammates in South Bay.
“The way we try to play, the up-and-down, his defensive ability, his athletic ability (helps us,” said South Bay Lakers guard Andre Ingram. “We want to move, we want to cut, we want to get to the rim, we want to shoot threes, we want to play fast, and he’s able to do all of that.”
Despite those tiny similarities, Payton isn’t even a fan of nicknames like “The Mitten” from his Basketball-Reference page that compare him to his father, who was (happy to be) known as “The Glove” for the way he blanketed players defensively.
“That nickname is just brought on me. Nobody calls me ‘The Mitten,'” Payton said.
There is one area he doesn’t mind being compared to his father: talking trash. The elder Payton is one of the biggest trash-talkers in NBA history. Payton says that’s the difference between them — he would never be known as a legendary trash-talker because he’s far more low-key.
“I just don’t do it in broad daylight like he used to,” Payton laughed.
The only thing Payton wants to do in the broad daylight of his G League and NBA minutes is get a chance to show he belongs. The second-year guard appreciated the trust the Lakers coaches showed in him by throwing him into a game on his first day with the parent team, an opportunity that showed that there is role on the team for him to earn right off the bat.
To earn that chance, Payton knows what he has to do.
“Just continuing to grind and continue to get better. Continue to expand my range and work on all the things I need to work on,” Payton said.
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