View Full Version : Milwaukee's plans still include Payton

06-13-2003, 04:06 AM
I find this article interesting because it indicates that one more potential impact free-agent will stay away from our Western conference foes next year. No Payton for you LA fans... Also, note the inclusion of Slavko with other higher rated draft prospects in Milwaukee's workouts. Methinks Slavko is going to move up surprisingly high in on draft day just on the merits of his colossal size and good athleticism...

Milwaukee's plans still include Payton
By Gery Woelfel

BY GERY WOELFEL Journal Times It isn't a foregone conclusion that Gary Payton's days with Milwaukee Bucks will end this summer.

In recent weeks, there have been a slew of nationally-publicized stories saying the Bucks' veteran guard will bolt the team as a free agent next month. But Aaron Goodwin, Payton's long-time agent, disputed those reports Tuesday.

Goodwin said the Bucks, who acquired Payton in a blockbuster trade last February, are in excellent position to retain him.

"I won't put a percentage on Gary staying with the Bucks,'' Goodwin said in a telephone interview from Oakland, Calif., where he was with Payton. "But the odds are greater he'll be back with them than he won't be back with them.

"There's no doubt Milwaukee is the front-runner, and I think they realize it.'' Payton, a nine-time NBA All-Star who is regarded as perhaps the league's greatest defensive point guard, becomes a free agent July 1. At that time, he will be free to sign with any team without the Bucks receiving any compensation.

There is speculation Payton will end up in either in San Antonio, Portland or with the Los Angeles Lakers. An official with San Antonio, who requested anonymity, said it was unlikely the Spurs would pursue Payton. A Portland front office executive downplayed the possibility of Payton joining the Trail Blazers. The Lakers have an interest in Payton, but can only offer him the mid-level exception of $4.6 million.

The Bucks, on the other hand, can offer Payton significantly more money since he is their free agent. There are rumblings the Bucks may offer Payton between $7 million to $8 million a season.

Goodwin acknowledged Payton will explore his options in free agency, but the Bucks would likely be his prime consideration.

"I expect my first call to be with the Bucks or from the Bucks,'' Goodwin said.

Payton was the key figure in the Bucks' trade with the Seattle SuperSonics. The Bucks obtained Payton, along with swingman Desmond Mason, for guard Ray Allen, backup guards Kevin Ollie and Ronald Murray and a first-round draft choice. That pick will be the 14th in the June 26th draft.

Payton started 28 games for the Bucks, averaging a team-high 19.6 points and 7.8 assists. In the playoffs, Payton continued to excel. In the Eastern Conference first-round series against the New Jersey Nets, Payton led the Bucks with 18.5 points and 8.7 assists.

Payton, who turns 35 July 23, was a big reason the Bucks took the Nets to six games. After beating the Bucks, the Nets swept their next two series to reach the NBA Finals.

Goodwin said Payton enjoys playing for the Bucks and coach George Karl, whom he had played for earlier in his career in Seattle.

"Gary likes it there,'' Goodwin said. "He likes their group of good young players and thinks they have good a team. They had a chance to beat New Jersey if they had come up with one free throw. If they had done that they'd have been up three (games) to one and maybe won the series.'' Goodwin was referring to Game 3 of the series. After the teams had split the first two games, the Bucks lost 103-101 when Rodney Rogers of the Nets, after missing a free throw, got his shot back and made a 20-foot shot with five seconds remaining. Milwaukee then won Game 4 before losing the last two games.

Bucks officials have made it clear they want to retain Payton, and Bucks general manager Ernie Grunfeld reiterated those sentiments Tuesday.

"At the appropriate time, we'll sit down and talk to them,'' Grunfeld said of Payton and Goodwin. "I think Gary likes it here, and we want to keep him here.'' * Joe Wolf, who has been a part-time broadcaster for the Bucks, has accepted a job as an assistant coach at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va.

Wolf, who attended Kohler High School and was one of the greatest prep players ever in the state, has been pursuing a coaching position for some time. He had been a finalist for the coaching job at Lakeland College.

* The Bucks, who have the eighth pick in the draft and two second-round choices, continued their preparations for the draft Tuesday at the Cousins Center in St. Francis when they worked out six prospects: 6-foot-9 Nick Collison of Kansas, 7-foot Maciej Lampe of Poland, 7-5 Pavel Podkolzine of Russia, 6-10 Jerome Beasley of North Dakota, 6-10 Tommy Smith of Arizona State and 7-5 Slavko Vranes of Yugoslavia. Power forward David West of Xavier was also in attendance but didn't work out because of a sprained ankle he suffered in a workout Monday with the Chicago Bulls.

On Tuesday, the Bucks worked out four point guard prospects: 6-4 Kirk Hinrich of Kansas; 6-2 Luke Ridnour of Oregon; 6-6 Reece Gaines of Louisville, who grew up in Madison, and 6-6 Zoran Planinic of Croatia.

Several more draft prospects are expected to arrive in the next week, including Texas point guard T.J. Ford, who is the consensus best point guard in the draft.

The Bucks have been trying to bring in Marquette guard Dwyane Wade, but Wade's busy schedule has prevented them from finalizing anything.

Wade has worked out for several teams, including Chicago, Seattle and Golden State. He is expected to work out for the Bulls again this week. The Bulls have the seventh pick.

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Milwaukee's plans still include Payton