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SYDNEY 2000 / SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES

Payton Feels Cheated, Is Ready to Return Home

September 30, 2000|ROBYN NORWOOD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SYDNEY, Australia — A frustrated Gary Payton said today he is "ready to go home" after the U.S. men's basketball team's close call against Lithuania, questioning whether the experience has been worth it going into Sunday's gold-medal game against France.

"We feel like we shouldn't have even come over here, because it's ridiculous," Payton said. "It's very rude for them to treat us like that. Everybody, the referees, the whole thing."

The American NBA players have had difficulty adjusting to the defensive style and officiating of international basketball, assistant coach Tubby Smith said, and Payton in particular has had trouble with screens.

"I think, why should we come over here if we're going to get cheated the way we get cheated?" Payton said, his exasperation spilling over the day after the 85-83 victory in the semifinals.

"Why should we bring our talent over here when we can't get the fair treatment everybody else gets? Why not call the game equally? If they play that way, why shouldn't we be able to play that way and get away with the same thing? They set all those illegal screens, but when we do it, it's a foul.

"Once you get a close game--and you know you're going to get a close game, you're going to have the opportunity to lose it. Everybody doesn't want to come over here for that.

"That's all they want to do. They want to keep us close so they can always get a chance to make a call that's going to do it."

After two Olympics, Payton doesn't sound as if he'll play again.

"Why should you go through that in the summer when you don't have to go through that? You come over here, you're getting this kind of treatment. What if we had lost? Then you wouldn't want to come over here, because you would see that we got cheated.

"Most guys aren't going to want to give up their summer. You're going to get the same thing. It's going to be the younger guys who are going to want to come.

"The Tim Duncans and Grant Hills couldn't come this time, and it probably would have been a big difference. It's just what happens.

"If Shaq [O'Neal] would have come, or Tim, it would have been different. Some of the pure shooters in the league, it would have been different."

A gold medal Sunday would help.

"This is the last game, and I'm glad for most of these guys," said Payton, whose 1996 gold medal makes him the only player on the team to have won a college, pro or Olympic championship. "We're going to go try to win this game tomorrow. Let us get it over with, and get it over with on a positive note."

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