Gary Payton has apparently changed his mind and intends to play for the Los Angeles Lakers next season after all, according to an ESPN report on Wednesday.
"I had a big pow-wow with my agents and my attorneys and everybody today," Payton told ESPN radio on Wednesday. "You guys know I came out here to play with Shaq ... and now he's [been] traded. It was a big question in my mind, should I stay here? But, you know, I think I made a commitment. I made them a commitment to come back to the Lakers and I'm going to go and play."
After the Lakers lost to the Pistons in the NBA Finals, Payton exercised a $5.4 million option for next season. But when the Lakers traded Shaquille O'Neal to the Miami Heat, Payton was reportedly upset and planned to ask the Lakers to buy out his contract so he could become a free agent.
Payton later said he would only return if Karl Malone returned to play for the Lakers.
"If they don't sign Karl [Malone] back, then I'll probably get up out of here," Payton told the Riverside News. "They're going to buy me out or trade me, or something. If Karl don't come back, I ain't coming back."
But Payton told ESPN radio on Wednesday that new Lakers coach Rudy Tomjanovic helped him change his mind.
"Rudy T. has made a big difference in that, too," Payton said. "Becoming the coach, he says he's going to give me the freedom to play the way I played in Seattle. So I'll be OK with that, so as long as we get a team together.
"The three guys we got [from Miami] are going to help us a lot. We're going to run, and if we get Kobe back, it will be even better."
Payton averaged 14.6 points and 5.5 assists during the regular season for the Lakers, but played poorly in the postseason.
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