Thursday, November 23, 2000 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Payton's suspension lifted

Seattle Times staff

The Sonics announced a one-game suspension for Gary Payton yesterday for a blowup with Coach Paul Westphal on Tuesday, then lifted it before last night's game with San Antonio began.

Wally Walker, the Sonic GM, explained yesterday's turnaround.

"We suspended him, and he asked what he would have to do to get it lifted," Walker said. "I said `Nothing.' Consequences for actions: Learn from it."

Payton then met with Westphal for an hour yesterday.

"Gary apologized and said he would apologize to the team," Walker said. "The coaches recommended in light of this act of contrition that he be allowed to play.

"I believe they're making progress."

Payton was initially suspended for what Walker termed "conduct detrimental to the team." Walker went on to say it was a "serious matter."

"Gary has been very supportive of the effort," said Payton's agent, Aaron Goodwin, referring to Payton's defense of Westphal after the Sonic coach offered to quit Nov. 6. "That's why this was so untimely. But when you're 5-7, things happen in the heat of the battle. But today, cooler heads have prevailed."

Walker also said players and coaches were frustrated by the team's slow start.

"We're just not happy with being 5-7, and we have to get better in a lot of areas," he said. "We've made progress, winning three of the last four. This is just a situation that required a response. It should be a signal to all our players."

Payton yelled at Westphal and had to be restrained by teammates during the Sonics' 116-110 victory in Dallas. The outburst came after Westphal said something Payton didn't like during a fourth-quarter timeout.

"If he's going to disrespect me, I'm not going to play for him, period," Payton said calmly in the locker room after Tuesday's game. "He said something bad to me, that I think is bad, and he will not disrespect me like that."

Payton refused to elaborate on what Westphal had said.

"I'm going to be a professional about it," Payton said Tuesday after the game. "He is not going to disrespect me on the bench. It don't matter what he was saying, it was disrespectful. All I'm trying to do is help.

"I'm not worried about him; I'm worried about these 11 guys on this team. I don't give a ... about him. I'm going to play for (my teammates)."

Westphal characterized it Tuesday as "just another blip on the radar screen."

During the timeout, Payton yelled at Westphal: "I don't care about the game. You can suspend me for the rest of the season."

Westphal then tried to substitute for Payton, but when the timeout period ended, six players, including Payton, walked onto the floor. Payton stood in front of the bench refusing to leave until assistant coach Nate McMillan and injured guard David Wingate pulled him back to the bench.

After the Sonics' loss at Orlando on Nov. 6, Payton unleashed a stream of expletives as players pointed fingers at each other and at Westphal. Westphal told the team he would quit immediately, if that's what the players wanted.

But Payton told the team it was the players' fault they were losing, and that they should stick with Westphal.

Last week, talking about the incident in Orlando, Payton said, "If we lose, we lose together. As long as (Westphal) is here, he's my coach and I'm going to try to get him wins."

Payton went on to say it was too early to make a coaching change.

"If we don't start jelling, then next month they can talk about that," he said. "But (Walker) will do all that. Not us."

The Sonics' next game is tomorrow night against the Los Angeles Clippers in KeyArena.

Westphal was unavailable for comment before last night's game.

Late Tuesday

Sonics 116, Mavericks 110

Seattle (116) -- Lewis 4-9 4-4 12, Baker 4-11 4-4 12, Ewing 4-8, 1-2 9, Payton 10-25, 8-8 28, Patterson 9-15, 4-5 23, Mason 5-9, 3-3 14, Wolkowyski 0-2 2-2 2, Barry 4-5 0-0 9, EDavis 3-6 0-0 7. Totals: 43-90 26-29 116.

Percentages: FG .478, FT .897. Three-point goals: 4-13, .308 (Barry 1-1, Mason 1-2, E.Davis 1-3, Patterson 1-4, Payton 0-1, Lewis 0-2).

Dallas (110) -- Finley 8-17 6-8 23, Nowitzki 4-7 4-5 12, Bradley 3-7 4-6 10, Nash 6-9 2-2 16, HDavis 11-20 3-4 32, Najera 0-0 0-0 0, Laettner 1-5 0-0 2, Eisley 3-5 0-1 7, Alexander 3-8 1-4 8. Totals: 39-78 20-30 110.

Percentages: FG .500, FT .667. Three-point goals: 12-26, .462 (H.Davis 7-12, Nash 2-5, Alexander 1-2, Eisley 1-3, Finley 1-4).

Seattle 25 39 30 22--116

Dallas 28 22 40 20--110

Attendance: 15,100 (18,187). Time: 2:15. Officials: Don Vaden, Mark Wunderlich, Gary Benson.

Copyright (c) 2000 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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