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Cam Payne, Monty Williams reunite with Suns, have ‘close’ relationship

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 04: Cameron Payne #22 of the Chicago Bulls dribbles the ball against the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on December 4, 2018 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Cameron Payne couldn’t have imagined he was going to be in his pool when he got the call he’s been waiting for all year.

The new Phoenix Suns guard was swimming when Suns head coach Monty Williams gave him a ring.

“Man I jumped outta that pool so fast,” he said over a Zoom call Thursday.

Payne, 25, has already seen his first few chances in the NBA come and go.

He was picked 14th overall in the 2015 NBA Draft by the Oklahoma City Thunder, who Williams was the associate head coach of for Payne’s rookie season.

Things didn’t work out in OKC for Payne and he was traded to the Chicago Bulls in 2017. They waived him in January of 2019 and he finished out the season on the Cleveland Cavaliers before failing to earn an opening day roster spot for this season. Instead, he was in the G League and had a stint in China as well.

Payne must have been coming to grips that he wasn’t going to get another go at the league, but the Suns presented him one more shot.

“He was like, ‘You got a minute?’ and I’m like, ‘Of course! Of course I got a minute!'” Payne said of the conversation with Williams.

“It was almost like a weight lifted off my back because the only thing I wanted to do is be back in the NBA and now I got that opportunity.”

On that phone call, Williams wasn’t even all that interested in briefing him on the situation in Phoenix.

“We talked about, just things from OKC,” Payne said. “We didn’t speak too much about the Suns. We just had a regular conversation about our relationship and the things he wanted to see out of me. And one of the main things we talked about is maturity and consistency.”

There’s extra comfort for Payne to come into this situation knowing it’s one of his favorite former coaches, likely speaking on his past experiences on a few new teams and the difficulties new situations can present anyone.

“With Monty in OKC, man, we had a real, real, real close relationship,” he said. “Coming here, it’s great to have somebody I know.”

As Suns players have spoken on this season, Williams can get through to players in a way most coaches can’t.

“I don’t know what it is, but he always has the right things to say to me,” Payne said. “For whatever reason, it triggers me to just turn into a different mode.”

The Suns are hopeful that Williams is the guy that can unlock a solid NBA player out of Payne, who hasn’t been able to stick yet. Williams said Payne will have the opportunity to compete for rotation minutes and it sounds like Payne has been humbled enough to get after it for that spot in a way he wasn’t before.

“I feel I can bring a great amount of consistency to the team and just do whatever coach needs me to do,” he said. “I’m a dog and I’m a road warrior so anything that’s asked I’m gonna go get it done.

“Just put my stamp back in the league and let people know that I should be here.”

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