Fred Carter

Message Board
NBA en espanol
NBA Draft
2003 playoffs
2003 All-Star Game
Power Rankings
NBA Insider

ESPN Auctions
Tuesday, July 8
Updated: July 9, 5:30 PM ET
Payton signing may mean another L.A. final

By Fred Carter
Special to

The signing of Gary Payton by the Lakers is a tremendous move. In one fell swoop, they've made themselves the favorite for next year's championship and added another Hall of Famer to Los Angeles' illustrious basketball history. All while improving their team exponentially. The Lakers are my favorites to win next year's championship for a few reasons.

First, the addition of Payton will allow the Lakers to better withstand injuries to the Big Two of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal. Before his addition, if one or both of these players went down, the Lakers were at a serious disadvantage, as evidenced by their play without the big fella at the beginning of last season. Payton gives them a player who is able to step up and shoulder the brunt of the offensive and defensive load if Kobe and Shaq go out.

Gary Payton
Payton's signing may lead to another final in L.A.'s future.
Second, the Lakers needed an upgrade at the point-guard position. Not to deride Derek Fisher's abilities, but last year he didn't give the Lakers what they needed. He didn't do a good job of taking advantage of pick and rolls and open looks and he was abused defensively at times. The Lakers now have the luxury of bringing Fisher off the bench. Fisher has been through the championship wars and knows what it takes to win, and that's invaluable off the bench. This won't be a huge adjustment for Fisher, because he hasn't been playing a lot of minutes anyway and Payton is a better player. It's easy for a player to sit behind a guy who he knows is better. And Fisher knows Payton is definitely better.

Third, the Lakers have acquired a great defensive player who will help them where they were sorely lacking last season -- on the defensive front. As much as they needed a third scorer, they needed another defender almost as badly. There's a reason they call Payton "the Glove," and even though he may not be as great a defender as he was in his youth, he is still better than most. Having Shaq in the lane to funnel ball-handlers to will only make Payton a more effective defender.

It isn't going to be all peaches and cream for Payton and the Lakers, though. Learning the triangle offense will be the hardest part of this puzzle. Payton is used to being able to roam wherever he wants offensively. He won't be able to do that anymore, because the triangle is a rigid offensive system. It relies on players being in certain places at certain times and making decisions based on those positions. It will take Payton a while to learn the triangle, but his basketball IQ is so high, I doubt it will be a major problem. Whatever he needs to learn, he'll learn in training camp.

Also, the Lakers still need a power forward to complete this team. There are some good ones on the free-agent market, and Karl Malone reportedly expressed an interest to play for the Lakers if Payton signed. The addition of a player like Malone to this lineup would almost ensure that we'll be watching the NBA Finals in sunny Los Angeles next year. After hearing this news, the most unhappy people in California right now may be the Sacramento Kings.

 More from ESPN...
Aldridge: Aftershocks of Payton's decision
Gary Payton's earthshaking ...
Malone to decide on destination 'Wednesday or Thursday'
Dwight Manley, the agent for ...

Agent: Payton to sign with Lakers
Aaron Goodwin, the agent for ...

Fantasy Spin: Payton to Lakers
Gary Payton's decision to ...

2003 NBA offseason
Lamar Odom wants big bucks. ...

Fred Carter Archive

 ESPN Tools
Email story
Most sent
Print story
Daily email