EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Suns’ Cam Payne provides update on day-to-day right wrist injury

Feb 22, 2022, 3:59 PM | Updated: 4:19 pm
Cameron Payne #15 of the Phoenix Suns celebrates after a three-point shot against the Memphis Grizz...
Cameron Payne #15 of the Phoenix Suns celebrates after a three-point shot against the Memphis Grizzlies during the second half of the NBA game at Footprint Center on December 27, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Grizzlies defeated the Suns 114-113. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

When the Phoenix Suns provided the update that point guard Chris Paul was going to miss six-to-eight weeks because of an avulsion fracture in his right thumb, the biggest question became the status of his backup Cam Payne.

Payne hasn’t played since Jan. 20 because of a right wrist sprain. The team originally gave a two-week timeline for the 27-year-old to be re-evaluated, and since that date crossed on Feb. 7, there has been no further update from head coach Monty Williams or the Suns beyond Payne holding a status of day-to-day.

Payne joined Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo on Tuesday and more or less shared the same sentiment.

“It’s starting to feel better,” he said. “Still kind of having some little complications with it but right now it’s just day-to-day.”

When asked if he could be back within the next week or so, Payne stated, “I’m praying for that too.”

Payne said he got shots up at the practice facility on Tuesday, which seems like a sign of progress.

Prior to the Suns’ win over the Orlando Magic on Feb. 12, Payne was seen with some type of brace or soft cast on that right wrist and wasn’t using his right hand with the ball as he kept his conditioning in order.

Without Paul, the Suns will really need Payne. Third-string point guard Elfrid Payton has been inconsistent over the season while trade deadline acquisition Aaron Holiday has proven to be more of a combo guard over his four-year NBA career rather than someone running the offense like Payne or Payton.

Then there’s combo guard Landry Shamet, who has been out since Jan. 30 after spraining his right ankle. Shamet said after a shootaround on Feb. 15 that he expected to return at some point after the All-Star break. The good news there is that Shamet has been mobile and active with the court work the media has been able to see, so the feeling is that he could be back soon.

Payne had a poor start to the season before shooting 44.6% from the field and 40% at 3-point range in his last 13 games. That was an encouraging bump from his overall numbers that sit at 40.4% and 33.6%, respectively, deep drops after Payne was a top three backup point guard in the NBA last year.

That gave the Suns a great dynamic at the position, with Paul’s commanding and slowed-down tempo being supported by Payne’s speedy offensive pace.

Statistically, that is the biggest change for Phoenix when one of them is on the floor. Minutes with Paul and no Payne have a 100.19 pace number, which would still be a top-10 mark in the league. But when Payne plays without Paul, it’s a blistering 103.91, an output that would rank No. 1.

Payne spoke on that dichotomy.

“Just be more consistent, be more solid and find a medium with the pace of the game that I bring and what I bring to the table every night,” Payne said. “I like to play very fast, and C has a different type of pace as well, and I have to be able to navigate those two paces and make sure I get the ball in the right people’s hands down the stretch of the games.”

To Payne’s point, there is a balance to those styles of play. Phoenix’s assist-to-turnover ratio in those Paul minutes minus Payne is 2.62 and vice versa goes down to 1.42.

Payne, of course, has stepped in like this before. He was tremendous in the first two games of the Western Conference Finals when Paul had COVID-19.

Those effective minutes mean a whole lot and provide Payne the confidence when he has to step up upon his return.

“I’m just gonna be me,” he said on how he tries to play without Paul. “I feel like I know how to balance it. Like you said earlier, I did well when C was out during the playoffs and I just kind of figured it out along the way. I just feel like I’m just going to mix it in. I know Chris gonna be there, so he’s going to be coaching me through, as well as coach Mont.

“I feel like I got the ability to slow it down but I also have the ability to be myself and play fast. But there’s always points in the game where you gotta slow it down and make sure we get good shots consistently.”

All statistics via NBA.com/stats

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