Paul said fans that expected the point guard solution to head to Atlanta were not alone. “I got up at the draft,” Paul said of when the second pick was about to be announced. “They pretty much told me they were picking me. I found a house (in Gwinnett County) and everything.” Instead, Deron Williams went with the third pick to the Utah Jazz and Paul was snapped up by New Orleans with the fourth pick.
As is the case for any self-respecting point guard with an old-school mindset, New Orleans’ Elfrid Payton doesn’t hesitate when you ask what’s been the most satisfying aspect of his five-game, triple-double streak. Instead of focusing on what the feat means to him individually, the fifth-year pro prefers to discuss the enjoyment he derives from seeing teammates make strides. “For me, it’s guys playing at a high level,” Payton noted. “Seeing Julius (Randle) get his career high (in scoring). Seeing Frank (Jackson) string together a bunch of good games. Seeing Kenrich (Williams) maybe not even take a shot all first half, but then hit a three. Seeing Jahlil (Okafor) sit for so long, where he hadn’t played for a couple games, and then have to start, but just come in ready to play and score. That’s the most fun thing for me.”
By definition, triple-doubles are statistical proof of a player’s versatility and ability to be productive in three different categories, but as a pass-first floor general, Payton has always taken the most pride in setting up teammates for scores. Payton has been consistent across the board over the past five games – averaging 15.6 points, 12.0 rebounds and 12.8 assists – but it’s the latter number that he most appreciates. In an NBA where scoring-minded point guards were once the exception, but are now the rule, Payton has maintained an unselfish mentality, something he tries to apply beyond basketball. “That’s still my thing,” Payton said of his approach. “Honestly, on and off the court. It’s crazy, I say this all the time, but I really feel like I was put here to help people, just in life, period. So that’s always my biggest thing, on the court, too. Help people be the best version of themselves, just trying to help as much as I can.”
After his 19-point, 10-rebound, 11-assist stat line led to Monday’s overtime victory over Dallas, Payton was most pleased to crack the win column, after the Pelicans had lost in each of his previous triple-doubles, including in excruciating fashion Saturday vs. Phoenix. Asked for his reaction to joining an exclusive quintet of players with five consecutive triple-doubles – a group that includes Westbrook, Robertson, Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan – Payton somewhat downplayed the achievement, saying, “Personally, it hasn’t really sunk in yet. I’m just trying to hoop and play at a high level. It felt good to get a win tonight, honestly.”