Cameron Payne

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.

Devin Booker Enters Health And Safety Protocols

Suns star Devin Booker has entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols and will miss Wednesday’s game vs. Portland, tweets Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic.

Rosters around the NBA were thrown into disarray in December and January as most teams experienced outbreaks of COVID-19. However, Booker is the first player to be placed in the league’s health and safety protocols since the All-Star break. Wizards center Daniel Gafford, the last player in the protocols, was cleared on February 13.

Hopefully, if Booker contracted the virus, it’s an isolated incident rather than the beginning of another league-wide increase in cases. The NBA hasn’t mandated daily coronavirus tests for the last few weeks, requiring players to get tested only if they’re unvaccinated, they’re a close contact of someone who tests positive, or they experience COVID-19 symptoms.

Assuming Booker did test positive, he’ll be out for at least five days or until he returns two consecutive negative tests at least 24 hours apart. A best-case scenario for Phoenix would be that Booker registered a false positive and is able to exit the protocols within the next day or two.

The Suns are already missing Chris Paul (thumb), so they’ll be without both of their backcourt stars when they face the Trail Blazers tonight. However, it appears Cameron Payne (wrist) should be available to play for the first time since January 22 — he’s listed as probable on Phoenix’s injury report.

Pacific Notes: Wiseman, Suns, Payne, Lakers

Despite rumors that he might be ready to return at the start of March, Warriors center James Wiseman remains sidelined for now. He’s with Golden State on the four-game road trip that begins tonight so that he can practice and scrimmage with the team, according to Anthony Slater of The Athletic, who tweets that head coach Steve Kerr continues to take a “day-to-day” approach with Wiseman’s rehab. There’s still no target date for his season debut.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer contends that Chris Paul‘s absence due to a hand injury could be a “blessing in disguise” for the Suns as long as it doesn’t extend into the postseason. As O’Connor explains, a number of other Suns will get a chance to handle the ball with Paul sidelined, which could allow the team to experiment a little and add a new layer to its offense.
  • Suns point guard Cameron Payne did some 3-on-3, 4-on-4, and a little 5-on-5 work on Monday, head coach Monty Williams told reporters today (video link via Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic). The team is hoping Payne can return from his right wrist injury soon, with Williams noting that the plan would be for the veteran guard to displace Cameron Johnson in the starting lineup (Twitter link via Rankin).
  • John Hollinger of The Athletic (Twitter link) questions why the Lakers didn’t complete a salary-dump trade involving DeAndre Jordan prior to last month’s deadline if they were just going to eventually waive him anyway. As Hollinger points out, the Lakers could’ve sent out cash with Jordan, essentially paying him another team to take him. Doing so would’ve reduced L.A.’s tax bill by about $5MM, so the team still would’ve come out ahead financially.

Suns Notes: Paul, Payne, McGee, Ayton, Sarver

Suns head coach Monty Williams enjoyed being involved in the All-Star festivities over the weekend, leading Team LeBron to a 163-160 victory in Sunday’s contest. However, he didn’t let the event distract him from preparing for life without Chris Paul after the break, as Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic writes. The All-NBA guard is expected to miss at least six-to-eight weeks due to a fractured thumb.

“Naturally, you have to,” Williams said of preparing to play for Paul’s absence. “I’ve had meetings with our coaches about what we’re going to do going forward. Different lineups. Rotations. How we’re going to play. Chris is a huge part of what we do. And so we’re not going to try to replace him. We’re just going to try to play the same way and keep our standard at a high level and I’m grateful for the depth that we.”

Examining the impact of Paul’s injury on the Suns, Cole Huff of The Athletic suggests it might not be a disaster for the team. Huff believes Phoenix – which has a 6.5-game lead for the West’s No. 1 seed – can hang onto the top spot in the West, and points out that even if Paul’s absence extends into the first round of the playoffs, the team would still be heavy favorites against a No. 8 seed.

Here are a few more notes on the Suns:

  • After previously reporting that the Suns expected Cameron Payne to return from his right wrist injury in the first game after the All-Star break, John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 (Twitter link) now says the veteran point guard may need a few more days before he’s back on the court. With both Payne and Paul sidelined, Devin Booker, Aaron Holiday, and Elfrid Payton figure to take on more ball-handling responsibilities.
  • Noting that JaVale McGee and Deandre Ayton have been two of the NBA’s most effective pick-and-roll big men so far this season, Zach Harper of The Athletic wonders how their production might be affected with Paul not in the lineup.
  • Speaking to reporters at All-Star Weekend, NBA commissioner Adam Silver didn’t provide an update on the league’s investigation into Suns owner Robert Sarver, simply stating that it’s “ongoing.” However, general manager James Jones said he believes the probe should be completed “soon,” Rankin writes for The Arizona Republic.

Suns Expect Shamet, Payne To Return Right After Break

The Suns anticipate that guards Landry Shamet and Cameron Payne will be back in action next Thursday against Oklahoma City in the team’s first game after the All-Star break, according to John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 FM in Phoenix (Twitter link).

Shamet has been dealing with a right ankle sprain and hasn’t played since January 30, missing the Suns’ last nine games. He spoke earlier this week about having rushed back too quickly from ankle injuries in the past and not wanting to make that same mistake again this time. If he returns next Thursday, it’s a safe bet that he feels like he’s back to 100%.

Meanwhile, a right wrist injury has sidelined Payne for Phoenix’s last 12 games — he hasn’t played since January 24. With Payne unavailable, Elfrid Payton has taken the reins as Chris Paul‘s primary backup at point guard, but Payne should reclaim that role when he returns next week.

Of course, we still don’t know for sure that Paul himself will be in the lineup next Thursday. The star point guard reportedly underwent an MRI on Thursday on his injured right hand and the Suns have yet to provide an official update on his status. If CP3 has to miss any time, Phoenix will at least be getting some backcourt reinforcements in the form of Shamet and Payne.

Injury Updates: Payne, Crowder, Ayton, Gobert, Bogdanovic, LaVine

The Suns will be without one of their key rotation players for at least a couple weeks. Cameron Payne will be reevaluated in two weeks after suffering a sprained right wrist, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic reports. The reserve guard suffered the injury on Saturday against Indiana.

Payne is averaging 10.5 PPG and 3.6 APG as Chris Paul‘s backup. Elfrid Payton will likely absorb some of his minutes and Devin Booker will see more action at the point.

Jae Crowder (wrist) and Deandre Ayton  (ankle) also missed Monday’s game against Utah but are considered day-to-day. Ayton has missed four consecutive games due to a right ankle sprain suffered at Detroit on January 16.

We have more injury updates:

  • Jazz center Rudy Gobert suffered a left calf strain in the late going against Golden State on Sunday, according to Sarah Todd of the Deseret News. “I tried to play through it. But I could feel I wasn’t moving right and I didn’t want to make it worse,” he said. Gobert missed Monday’s game against Phoenix but the strain is considered mild and he isn’t expected to be sidelined for an extended period, Tim MacMahon of ESPN tweets.
  • The Jazz‘s Bojan Bogdanovic has a left finger avulsion fracture but can continue to play with it, Tony Jones of The Athletic tweets. The injury, which occurred against Houston last week, is a ligament that has been pulled off the bone. He can’t bend it and will require a splint for the next four-to-six weeks. Bogdanovic also didn’t play on Monday.
  • Bulls star guard Zach LaVine returned to action on Monday after a five-game absence, James Collier of ESPN writes. LaVine was sidelined with a left knee injury. He had not played since exiting in the first quarter on January 14 against the Warriors after feeling soreness in his left knee.

Western Notes: Alvarado, Payne, Crowder, McLaughlin

Pelicans rookie Jose Alvarado is elated about the start to his professional career, William Guillory of The Athletic writes. Alvarado signed a two-way contract with New Orleans after going undrafted last year and has appeared in 18 games so far this season.

“I’m still at the beginning, but I feel like this is about as good of a beginning as I could possibly ask for,” Alvarado said in his interview with Guillory. “I just want to keep it going and show everybody how grateful I am to be here.”

Alvarado, 23, played college ball at Georgia Tech for four seasons. In addition to his 18 NBA appearances, he’s also played in five G League games this season, averaging 19.8 points on 52% shooting from the floor and 43% from three-point range.

Along with Alvarado, the Pelicans also have Devonte’ Graham, Josh Hart, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Kira Lewis Jr. and others in the backcourt. Gary Clark currently occupies the team’s other two-way spot.

Here are some other notes out of the Western Conference:

  • Suns guard Cameron Payne and forward Jae Crowder suffered wrist injuries in the team’s win over Indiana on Saturday, Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic writes. Both players exited the game early and won’t play in Monday’s contest against Utah, according to Kellan Olson of 98.7 Arizona Sports (Twitter link). Crowder sustained a wrist contusion, while Payne suffered a sprain. “It’s tough,” teammate Mikal Bridges said. “It kind of put my mood down a little bit when at the end the game seeing those guys hurt a little bit. You always want to have your whole team out there, but just pray for them tonight and next man up, but yeah, obviously you always want to have your team out there.”
  • Timberwolves guard Jordan McLaughlin has exited the NBA’s health and safety protocols, the team announced on social media. McLaughlin has missed five straight games. He’s appeared in 28 contests this season, averaging 2.2 points and 2.4 assists in 11.2 minutes per contest.

Suns Notes: Bass, Booker, Saric, Payne, Shamet

The second 10-day contract that Paris Bass signed with the Suns this week will give him an opportunity to play in front of his hometown fans Sunday in Detroit, writes Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. Bass, who played his college ball at Detroit Mercy, is concerned with finding enough tickets to make sure his family gets to see him live out his NBA dream.

“Man,” Bass said. “To come from where I was last year to be to this point right here. I was in Puerto Rico last year, Dominican Republic.  Now to be here, the biggest stage in the world. Playing at home in front of my family, man, like, I don’t know what I’m going to do in that moment until I get there, honestly.”  

The 26-year-old Bass has played in a long list of overseas locales since going undrafted in 2017, along with a couple of stints in the G League. He started this season with the South Bay Lakers and may never have gotten an NBA opportunity if not for the hardship exemption that was instituted in response to COVID-19 outbreaks.

“I do think it’s pretty cool to see these guys get a chance to play in the league,” coach Monty Williams said. “In a normal economy, they probably wouldn’t. So I’m excited and pleased to see people get an opportunity.”

There’s more on the Suns:

  • Devin Booker enjoys social media, but he’s uncomfortable when fans put him on the same level as Kobe Bryant, Rankin states in a separate piece. “The only problem I have is people still comparing me to Kobe Bryant when I told them in the playoffs stop bringing up Mamba mentality,” Booker said. “I’m inspired by Kobe Bryant and Mamba mentality, but I am not Kobe Bryant.”
  • Phoenix is looking for someone willing to trade for Dario Saric, who may miss the entire season because of a torn ACL, Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report said on the latest edition of the Solar Panel podcast. The power forward is making $8.51MM this season and has another $9.24MM guaranteed for 2022/23.
  • The Suns could be in the market for backcourt help before the trade deadline, as Kellan Olson of Arizona Sports 98.7 notes that Cameron Payne and Landry Shamet are having disappointing seasons. Olson adds that both players haven’t been able to adjust to regular roles because of shifting lineups created by COVID-19.

Cameron Payne Out At Least One More Week

Suns point guard Cameron Payne, who missed Saturday’s game in Portland due to a right hamstring strain, has been ruled out for Wednesday’s game vs. Sacramento and will be re-evaluated in a week, according to Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic (Twitter link).

Barring an unexpectedly early return, that means Payne will also miss Saturday’s game vs. Cleveland, with his status for next Tuesday’s contest vs. New Orleans up in the air.

Payne, 27, averaged 8.4 PPG and 3.6 APG on .484/.440/.893 shooting in 60 games (18.0 MPG) for the Suns last season. He parlayed that strong 2020/21 performance into a new three-year, $19MM contract this offseason and entered the fall as Chris Paul‘s primary backup at the point.

With Payne sidelined, the Suns figure to lean more heavily on third-string point guard Elfrid Payton for minutes off the bench. Payton had a solid game on Saturday, with 14 points, six assists, and four rebounds in 25 minutes.

Suns Notes: Jack, Payne, Nader, Shamet

The Suns announced some coaching changes this week, stating in a press release that Kevin Young has been promoted to associate head coach and Bryan Gates and Steve Scalzi have officially joined Monty Williams‘ staff.

Perhaps the most notable name included in the announcement was that of Jarrett Jack, a longtime NBA guard who has been hired as an assistant in Phoenix. The 37-year-old, who spent 13 seasons in the NBA, hasn’t been in the league since he appeared in 62 games for the Knicks in 2017/18.

However, Jack spent last season on the G League Ignite, acting as a mentor to the young prospects on the developmental squad, including eventual lottery picks Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga. After serving as something of an informal coach on the Ignite, Jack will officially take on that role in Phoenix under Williams, whom he played for in Portland (2005-08) and New Orleans (2010-12) early in his career.

Here’s more out of Phoenix:

  • Cameron Payne‘s three-year, $19MM contract with the Suns is partially guaranteed in its final year, according to Keith Smith of Spotrac, who tweets that the point guard is only assured of $2MM of his $6.5MM salary in 2023/24.
  • Abdel Nader‘s two-year deal with the Suns includes a team option on year two, league sources tell Michael Scotto of HoopsHype (Twitter link).
  • The Suns ended up not making any picks on draft night after attaching the No. 29 pick to Jevon Carter in a trade with Brooklyn. However, as Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic details, the player Phoenix acquired in that trade – Landry Shamet – has a more versatile offensive game than Carter and should immediately step into a regular rotation role.