July 15, 1996 in Sports

Payton’s Place Stays In Seattle All-Star Rebuffs Miami To Stay With Supersonics

Jim Moore Seattle Post-Intelligencer

By early this week, Gary Payton will supply proof that the maximum wage is going up, too, at least in the NBA.

That’s when the Seattle SuperSonics and their point guard are expected to agree to terms on a seven-year contract worth an estimated $85 million.

As a free agent, Payton could have played anywhere next season, but he chose to remain in Seattle, wanting to continue his relationship with a team that made it to the NBA Finals last season.

Sonics president Wally Walker said he was confident the deal would be completed by Tuesday. Minor details are still being negotiated.

But until an agreement is reached, the Miami Heat won’t be convinced. The final bidders for Payton over the weekend, the Heat continued to try and sway Payton’s agent, Aaron Goodwin, at an Indianapolis hotel Sunday night.

But the Heat have just $4.3 million left under the salary cap to offer Payton next year.

Payton previously received offers from New York, Charlotte, Houston and Milwaukee, but those teams lost out when the Sonics increased their offer.

Besides the financial considerations, Payton wanted to remain with the Sonics because of the fans and his ties with the city where he has played since being drafted No. 2 overall out of Oregon State in 1990.

“Gary wanted to do everything possible to stay in Seattle. His heart was there, and they moved real well to keep him,” Goodwin said.

With his new contract, which runs through the 2002-03 season, Payton will earn $12.143 million per year, nearly as much as the $13.5 million he made combined during his first six years in the league.

Now other raises are in order for a couple of Payton’s teammates, as well as coach George Karl. Walker will want to dot the i’s on the Payton deal as soon as possible, because Hersey Hawkins might be ready to cross the t’s elsewhere.

Needing a shooting guard now that Allan Houston has defected to New York, the Detroit Pistons reportedly are pursuing Hawkins, another of the Sonics’ attractive free agents.

In addition to wanting to retain Hawkins, the Sonics probably will make a solid pitch to Sam Perkins. Ervin Johnson is expected to leave Karl’s doghouse and sign with another team.

The Sonics are hoping to replace Johnson at starting center with free agent Brian Williams, who averaged a career-high 15.8 points and 7.6 rebounds for the Clippers last season.

Karl’s situation also figures highly in the mix. He has been promised a new contract. Karl, who made about $1.1 million last year, is expected to double his salary.

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