Suns PG Cam Payne feels near full strength, has stepped up defensively

Nov 24, 2021, 12:16 PM

Phoenix Suns backup point guard Cam Payne is feeling like himself again.

After missing five games with a hamstring injury earlier this season, it took Payne a few games to get his legs back underneath him.

He told Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo on Tuesday that last Friday’s game against the Dallas Mavericks, his eighth since the injury, was when he finally felt unlimited physically.

“I really felt my feet up under me, started to get back in my game form, picking up full court, just starting to get my identity back,” Payne said.

“In the last couple of games, I’ve been getting to the rack. I think that’s showing that I’m pretty much getting back to full health when I can go to the rack constantly, over and over again, and just keep getting back up.”

Payne showed that off Monday against the San Antonio Spurs.

He scored 20 points off the bench, his third-straight double-digit scoring performance. The point guard was driving hard to the basket, applied the breaks for a stop-and-pop pull-up jumper and hit a couple 3s in Phoenix’s 115-111 win. He was a plus-14 for the second straight game.

What has stood out recently to Suns head coach Monty Williams is Payne’s effort on the other end of the floor.

“That’s what has picked up for Cam,” Williams told reporters after Monday’s win. “If you watched last night’s game against Denver, we were up 20, Cam was still guarding 94 feet with three, two minutes to go on the clock.

“He’s got wiggle in his game, I think he’s in much better condition to play the way he played last year in the playoffs.”

Payne had other strong offensive performances since his return. In his second game back, he scored 24 points against the Sacramento Kings.

He said Tuesday that he still didn’t have the pace he wanted to then, even while having a good game.

Williams stressed Payne’s play as important to the Suns, as it allows them to give point guard Chris Paul more rest.

“The positive of Cam playing that way is we don’t have to play Chris 30-plus minutes every night when Cam can come out there and play and control the game,” Williams said. “It’s a bonus for us.”

Phoenix’s bench unit has scored at least 43 points in three consecutive games, helping to keep the 13-game winning streak alive.

The Suns take on the Cleveland Cavilers Wednesday at 5 p.m. You can tune in on ESPN 620 AM or 98.7 FM HD-2.

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