Pacific Notes: Payne, Booker, Covington, Augustin

With Chris Paul injured and Devin Booker in health and safety protocols, the Suns were happy to welcome Cameron Payne back tonight, writes Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. Payne, who injured his right wrist on January 22, was in the starting lineup as Phoenix hosted the Trail Blazers.

“Just his energy, his energy is contagious,” said Torrey Craig, who was still with the Pacers when Payne got hurt. “He likes to get the crowd into the game. He gets his teammates going. He plays with this level of confidence that teams need.”

After Paul hurt his thumb, coach Monty Williams replaced him in the starting lineup with Cameron Johnson and let Booker run the point. Williams is glad to have a true point guard back with the starters and to see Johnson return to providing instant offense with the second unit.

“It allows for the bench to have a bit more rhythm,” Williams said. “It puts Cam Johnson back into his role on the bench and now he could be the anchor out there as far as scoring. A guy who has been in our rotation and he knows what we’re doing.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • The COVID-19 test that Booker took today was inconclusive, tweets John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7. Booker will be permitted to play if he can produce negative tests two days in a row.
  • After Tuesday’s game, Clippers forward Robert Covington talked extensively about mental health issues and revealed that he almost quit playing basketball in 2019, according to Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. It happened while he was trying to recover from a knee injury, and Covington claims the Sixers traded him to Minnesota after assuring him that he wouldn’t be moved. Covington now uses his experiences to try to help other players who may be going through difficult times. “I take positives, I take negatives, and I just reevaluate,” he said. “I don’t let them drain my energy. I just assess it in a different manner, to where it helps me. And that’s what I’ll allow myself to get to, because before, I couldn’t do that.”
  • D.J. Augustin didn’t have much time to prepare after finding out Monday that the Lakers wanted to sign him, tweets Dave McMenamin of ESPN. Augustin said he “threw anything in a bag” and caught a flight to L.A. the next day.
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