Though it’s been more than a decade since since the Sonics sent Gary Payton to Milwaukee as part of a 5 player deal that brought Ray Allen to Seattle, the verbose PG clearly harbors a grudge against former Sonics owner, Howard Schultz (above). On the occasion of his induction into Springfield, MA’s Basketball Hall of Fame, Payton told the Boston Globe’s Gary Washburn, “(Shultz) made a lot of silly moves and the first silly move was getting rid of me.”
“The Ackerleys ran the team like a family. When we had problems, they would call us in and talk to us. They would call us in and ask us what’s the problem, not try to trade you and tell you, ‘No, you don’t need a contract.’ You see where [Schultz’s style] got us, leading to another owner moving the team. And we knew he would move it to Oklahoma, we knew that. The Schultz group should have known that, too. We were the longest-standing team in Seattle and we let a guy just come in here and take it.”
“He just messed up our whole [franchise] and people did leave Seattle alone when he owned the team,” said Payton. “That’s why he had to sell it again, because he was struggling. He made a lot of silly moves and the first silly move was getting rid of me.”
“I wasn’t asking for a lot; I never asked for a new contract [before my previous one expired],” Payton said about his final season in Seattle. “All I asked was whether we were going to get an extension [in the offseason] and [Schultz] made it seem like, ‘I don’t care about you no more, you’re nothing.’ So, that’s what happened. He [saw] that wasn’t the right way and the whole franchise went downhill from there.
“It was time to go. I didn’t want to work for this guy. He knew it and I knew it. We don’t have the right people running this squad. Why sit here and be miserable.”
Perhaps the beginning of the end for Payton in Seattle was when Shawn Kemp demanded a trade after center Jim McIlvaine got a seven-year, $33 million contract extension, considered outrageous for an unproven player. Payton said Kemp should have remained quiet.
“Shawn had just redid his contract the [previous] season. [McIlvaine] got lucky, I think a lot of guys in the NBA are lucky now,” Payton said. “That doesn’t have nothing to do with your ability. Don’t hate, just play better, and then get that money. Don’t hate the player [for getting paid], hate what the game is about.”