Much maligned point guard, Cameron Payne, is set to make his season debut with the Bulls in the not too distant future. The 23 year old has spent the season rehabbing his broken foot, a recurring injury for Payne, which flared up again during the summer and kept him from playing basketball, until now.
Over the last week and a half, Payne has been healthy enough to play with the Windy City Bulls, the Chicago Bulls G-League affiliate. I watched a couple of those games, which stream over the Windy City Bulls Facebook page, so you wouldn’t have to. You’re welcome. What I saw from Payne was encouraging.
When we last saw Cameron Payne, he was struggling to fit in with his new team, the Chicago Bulls. He was the key component in the trade that sent Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott to the Oklahoma City Thunder, and in return the Bulls received Anthony Morrow (no longer on the Bulls), Joffrey Lauvergne (no longer on the Bulls), and Cameron Payne (surprisingly, still on the Bulls). The trade has been roundly criticized as one of the worst in Bulls history, a criticism I strongly agree with.
Payne arrived in Chicago to the loud praises and unrealistic expectations of the Bulls front office. Payne was “the point guard of the future”. He was highly valued by GarPax, and was going to be the perfect fit for the Fred Hoiberg offense. In reality, Payne was out of shape, nursing his chronically aching foot, and hardly capable of living up to the expectations unfairly heaped on him by the front office and fans. Only superstar level play could save him from impending doom. Cameron Payne is not a superstar.
Well aware of what he had to prove, Payne tried his best to live up to the hype. He played as fast as he could-he was out of control, a turnover machine. He shot as often as he could-trying to prove he was a scorer, he forced up bad shots, contested shots; he was a black hole on offense. Frustrated at his failure, Cameron Payne crashed and burned, becoming the joke Bulls fans cringed, as much as laughed, at.
After his injury last summer, Cameron Payne faded from the spotlight. Kris Dunn came over from the Timberwolves in the Jimmy Butler trade, the new point guard of the future. Rookie Lauri Markkanen was surprisingly good, Bobby Portis broke Nikola Mirotic’s face, and suddenly Cameron Payne was an after thought for most Bulls fans. He was a dude in a suit at the end of the bench. Maybe he would play basketball again, but hardly anyone expected it to be with the Bulls.
Rumblings of an imminent Cam Payne return surfaced around the trade deadline. John Paxson addressed the media and said he expected Payne to return to the Bulls ready for action around the All-Star break, and he expected him to be a part of the regular rotation. A short rehab stint with the Windy City Bulls was all it would take for Payne to regain his basketball legs, and then on to the Big League.
The Bulls have just recalled Cameron Payne from the G-League, the day we thought would never come is at hand!
As I said, I watched a couple of Payne’s G-League games so you wouldn’t have to, and the news is good(?). Cam Payne looks ready to play in the NBA.
Over three games in the G-League he is averaging 21 points, 4 assists, 4 rebounds, and nearly 2 steals a game. He certainly deserves a second chance with the Bulls NBA squad. He has not been a perfect player, but what I saw of him made me think he might be an adequate back up to Kris Dunn.
He was still making mistakes, but he was controlled in his play. He was still jacking up shots with his awkward, unorthodox looking left hand shot, but he wasn’t forcing it. The majority of his shots came in the flow of the offense, and he wasn’t just settling for jumpers. Quite often, Payne would penetrate the lane, looking for contact, trying to draw fouls, going for the high percentage lay-ups, or finding shooters and cutters for open looks after the defense had collapsed on his drive. It was not All-Star level play, but it was competent.
I don’t know if Cameron Payne can cut it on the NBA level. He has some talent, he has a decent basketball IQ, he seems to have the desire, but can he stay healthy and put it all together? It looks as though we are about to find out.
Enter Cam Payne.
Exeunt Jerian Grant and Ryan Arcidiacono.
I will be taking a break from blogging the next couple weeks. Conveniently, this vacation coincides with the NBA All-Star break. Expect my next post sometime in the first full week of March. I haven’t decided yet if it will be Sunday the 4th, or Wednesday the 7th. Thank you all for reading, enjoy All-Star week, and especially enjoy the Rising Stars game; both Markkanen and Dunn are playing in that game.
And before I go it’s important to remember what this Bulls season is all about…
The Worst Records in the NBA:
1. Atlanta Hawks, Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns 18-40 .310
4. Sacramento Kings, Orlando Magic 18-38 .321
8. Chicago Bulls 20-36 .357