Gary Payton made more NBA Playoffs predictions and shared more Hall-of-Fame insight on the latest episode of the Shootin’ Hoops podcast on BetUS. This week’s episode opened with a discussion about the injury bug that has bit players across the NBA.
Some, including LeBron James, have attributed the issue to a lack of recovery time following the extended 2020 season — a take Payton isn’t exactly buying.
“I still think these guys do not work on their body enough, to keep your body strong, to keep your body there and do the things you do,” Payton said. “They’re just used to coming in and getting in shape while they’re playing basketball. Your body can’t do that.”
“It’s a full-time job keeping your body ready,” added host Kenyon Rasheed.
Then, before diving into the Eastern and Western Conference Finals, Payton doubled down on his stance that preparation is the root of the rash of recent injuries to the NBA’s top stars.
“I don’t care how many masseuses they have around, how many trainers they have around — that don’t mean nothing,” Payton added. “That’s just something they have because they have a lot of money. Do you use them? Do you go every day?”
Who Do You Trust?
During the next segment, breaking down the last teams standing in the NBA Playoffs, Rasheed boiled the discussion to one question: Who do you trust more in each series?
In the West, Payton went with the Suns, who eliminated the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 6 of their Western Conference Finals series Wednesday night.
In the East? It’s the Milwaukee Bucks, Payton said. But will they win it all?
“I don’t know, because the Bucks are an up-and-down basketball team — they play well one time, and then they play like they’re not there,” Payton said. “I think this Atlanta team, especially under the guidance of Nate McMillan, they come to play.”
Later, when the discussion turned to the play of the Bucks’ P.J. Tucker, Payton refuted Rasheed’s claim that Tucker’s tough series after a standout effort against Brooklyn reflects poorly on his effort.
“P.J. Tucker idolizes Kevin Durant, so he wants to play harder against him — that’s a whole different thing,” Payton said. “It’s like when I was playing, I had a whole different mindset going against John Stockton and Michael Jordan.
“Then you’ve got to understand, P.J. Tucker doesn’t match up against the Atlanta Hawks,” Payton continued. “They don’t have a big guy like KD and, and he can’t guard Trey Young like that.”
Payton closed by putting on his coaching hat and sharing the message he’d have delivered to his team after Game 4 if he were Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer.
“I don’t care about Game 4 — we lost, it’s over with,” Payton said. “It’s 2-2, we’re in a three-game series now. We’ve gotta win two to go to the Finals. That’s all we’re worried about.”
And in a three-game series, Payton says, the Bucks hold the edge.
“Right now, the advantage is Milwaukee,” Payton stated during the episode, recorded prior to Thursday night’s Game 5 matchup in Milwaukee. “They’ve got two games at home. They just can’t lose two games in a row.”
Before closing the show with an early NFL preview, including a breakdown of Payton’s beloved San Francisco 49ers, the guys spent this week’s Untold Stories segment on another interesting proposition by Rasheed:
If you are a coach starting a team and can pick one out of Luka Doncic, Trey Young, Jamal Murray, Donovan Mitchell, or Ja Morant, who are you taking?
“I’m a big Morant fan — I’m biased on that because I think he plays like me, plays with a lot of dog,” Payton said. “But if you look at Luka and Trey Young, they’re doing what coaches want. They’re giving you points, they’re giving you assists, and if you want to go with everything, you go with Luka, because he’s a triple-double man who’s going to make everybody better.”
Payton and Rasheed also noted that Doncic’s 6-foot-8 frame also gives him a distinct advantage over the other young stars on the list. But at the end of the day, Payton said, that list of players and others, including Rookie of the Year LaMelo Ball, are proof of one universal truth in hoops:
“If you don’t have a good guard, you’re not going to win,” Payton said. “That’s why Brooklyn didn’t win, because Harden and Kyrie got hurt. They didn’t have anybody at the end who could compete, who could get KD the ball.”