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Gary Payton Thinks The 04 Lakers Could Have Taken Us

12

From an interview with SLAM Magazine. SLAM: What was the difference between the Miami team that won and your 2004 Lakers team that lost 4-1 to Detroit? GP: People don’t really understand the complexity of the situation in 2004. First off, the team was banged up. If Karl Malone didn’t get hurt, we would’ve won. Secondly, Shaquille O’Neal was fighting with the ownership of the Lakers. And thirdly, Kobe Bryant was going through a rape charge. Here was a young man who thought he was going to jail for the rest of his life. He wasn’t really into basketball at that moment, and I can’t blame him. I would’ve been thinking the same thing—you on a rape charge, you don’t know. He had to go to Denver everyday. He didn’t think he was going to beat it. The media and everybody was talking about how he was going to lose the case. And then he had lost his wife. He needed to get in control of his life. So people didn’t understand that his focus, understandably, wasn’t there, and we had a lot of problems. But what people don’t realize is that when we all played together at the beginning of the year, we were 19-2. Karl was averaging 19, I was averaging 20, Kobe was averaging 17, and Shaq was averaging 18. And then when Karl went down, everybody stopped playing. And we still maintained and got to the Championship.

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