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Payton fined for avoiding media

LOS ANGELES -- After avoiding reporters following Game 1 of
the NBA Finals, Gary Payton spoke Monday.

But not for long ... and certainly not long enough to avoid being fined $5,000 by the league for failing to make himself available to the media.

Initially when asked Monday if he would be talking, Payton replied: "In a minute."

Then, with practice over, he left the court and headed toward
the locker room.

Twenty minutes later, with about 50 media members waiting at a
designated podium, Los Angeles Lakers spokesman John Black informed
reporters Payton wasn't coming back.

Payton also left Staples Center without comment following his
team's 87-75 loss to the Detroit Pistons a night earlier.

It wasn't a good game for Payton, who shot 1-of-4 for three
points in 31 minutes while his man, Chauncey Billups, led the
Pistons with 22 points. Payton committed his fifth foul with 3
minutes left in the third quarter and didn't play again until late
in the final period.

"I don't know if any of us can understand the emotion that
Gary's dealing with at this time," teammate Derek Fisher said.
"He came here for one reason only, and he went through a tough
season. To get this close to it and to struggle, that's got to be
tough.

"We have a responsibility to address the media. We have to
respect the fact that Gary's not very pleased with what's going on
right now. Hopefully we can come out and play better tomorrow night
and you guys will have a chance to talk to him."

NBA spokesman Tim Frank announced Payton's fine issued by NBA senior vice president of basketball operations Stu Jackson.

Payton and Karl Malone, who both have Hall of Fame credentials,
joined the Lakers at discount prices last summer in search of their
first championship rings.

Payton reached the finals once in his previous 13 seasons -- with
Seattle in 1996, when the Bulls beat the SuperSonics four games to two to win their fourth title in six years.

To say he's had a difficult time with his new team would be an
understatement. While the 35-year-old guard has started every game,
he hasn't hid his disappointment about playing time -- especially
when benched in the fourth quarter.

And he's also made clear his discomfort with the Lakers'
triangle offense.

Payton avoided the media on several occasions during the season.
Once when he did talk, he went on a memorable rant the day before
Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals against San Antonio
last month, sarcastically accepting the blame for the Lakers'
losses in the first two games. The Lakers won the next four.

"He doesn't take losing very well," teammate Rick Fox said.
"That's understandable. He might feel that coming out and talking
when he's not in the best place wouldn't be good for the team."

When asked about Payton's demeanor in practice, Fox replied:
"It looked like he's looking forward to the next opportunity."

Devean George said the entire team was less talkative and more
businesslike at practice Monday.

"I think he might be a little frustrated, but we're all
frustrated," George said. "That's part of the game. Sometimes
people get angry and frustrated and mad. Usually, Gary's very loose
and talkative. Today, we were focused."

Assistant coach Jim Cleamons said Payton will need some help on
the defensive end Tuesday night in Game 2.

"As a basketball team, we have to help him," Cleamons said.
"Point guards in this league have to be multitasked. Chauncey can
score, he can distribute. We didn't play screen-and-roll situations
correctly. Our bigs did not show up."

Payton wasn't the only Laker role player to have a sub-par game
offensively. Fisher shot 1-of-9 for two points and Malone was
2-of-9 for four points.

Malone, in fact, blamed himself for the loss.

"I slept well, but I went to bed with a bad taste in my mouth,
and woke up with one," he said Monday.

"Nothing surprises me with our team anymore," said Fox, a
member of championship teams with the Lakers from 2000-2002. "Now
what will surprise me is if we don't respond."