Tim Grover: Competitive dominance is about commanding fear and respect. I wrote about this in my book “Relentless,” and I’m retelling it here because it’s the best intimidation technique I’ve ever seen. Only one guy could pull this off: During the playoffs, Michael Jordan would occasionally wander into the opponents’ locker room, on the pretense he just wanted to say hello to a close friend on the other team. Now, if you knew MJ, you knew that was completely ridiculous because MJ didn’t care about saying hello to anyone, including his own teammates, especially right before a game. But try telling that to the guys in the other locker room: They’re getting ready to play, thinking about facing Michael Jordan and the world champion Chicago Bulls … and in walks Michael Jordan himself. The whole place would suddenly go completely silent, every pair of eyes following him, watching, wondering, waiting.
DeAntae Prince: There have been a lot comparisons between the 72-win Bulls team you played against and this year’s 73-9 Warriors squad. How do you think the Warriors would stack up? Gary Payton: “I don’t compare them and I don’t want to compare them. They’re two different animals. The Bulls did it with a physical type of basketball, we could hand check, we could do a lot of things. It was just a different era. They come back 20 years later and go 73-9. I couldn’t compare them, because if we put Golden State in that era a lot of teams, to me, would give them problems. Because we were more physical, we put our hands on them. A lot of our teams in this era we probably would have fouled out, we probably would have had a lot of problems.”
DeAntae Prince: It’s been 20 years since your Sonics team made a run to the NBA Finals. How fondly do you look back on that time and what memories come back when you think about that team? Gary Payton: “We had a lot of fun that year. We were shooting the lights out of the basketball, we set records for shooting at that time. We were a great defensive team. A lot of guys on that team and we had a lot of role players. People forget we won like 64 games, and we were rolling, too. People forget too that we beat Chicago in that year. We split home and home. We had fun doing it. I think if Nate McMillan didn’t get hurt we had a good chance of doing it. I think if I started on Michael Jordan first we would have been OK. But we can’t look back at that. I just look at the fact that we had an opportunity to do it. We didn’t start playing until Game 4. We won two by 20 or more points. By that time it was too late. I wish we could have kept that team together.”
Veteran Bulls center Joakim Noah, his representatives and the Chicago front office continue to have a “positive dialogue” about a new contract amid a report that Noah has been telling teammates he’s ready to leave the franchise, a league source told ESPN.com on Wednesday. Those close to Noah, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, are still hopeful that he will be able to work out an agreement to stay in Chicago long term.
It also helps that some well-heeled and high-profile teams will be in need of a center who brings rim protection this summer. Boston GM Danny Ainge said that would be among the Celtics’ top targets, and Boston will be a team with interest in Biyombo. So will the Lakers, as they are known to be eagerly seeking a defensive big man to put with Julius Randle in the frontcourt. That won’t be all, of course. Chicago or Houston — attractive big markets — might well need a center this summer, and Biyombo would fit with a burgeoning young playoff team like Portland. What’s most critical is that the team landing Biyombo has the confidence in him to make him a starter. The money he will warrant will make him too expensive to bench.
Storyline: Bismack Biyombo Free Agency