Cam Payne out, Jae Crowder in for Phoenix Suns vs. Kings

Mar 20, 2022, 1:43 PM | Updated: 4:29 pm

Phoenix Suns guard Cameron Payne (15) shields the ball from Chicago Bulls guard Alex Caruso during ...

Phoenix Suns guard Cameron Payne (15) shields the ball from Chicago Bulls guard Alex Caruso during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, March 18, 2022, in Phoenix. Phoenix won 129-102. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Phoenix Suns point guard Cam Payne was a late scratch for Sunday’s matinee matchup against the Sacramento Kings due to a non-COVID-19 illness.

Head coach Monty Williams confirmed his absence pregame after AZCentral’s Duane Rankin first reported the news. Payne was not on the Suns’ original injury report on Saturday afternoon, nor the latest updated version before the confirmation.

Payne is out along with wing Cam Johnson (right quad contusion) and point guard Chris Paul (right thumb avulsion fracture).

Forward Jae Crowder will return after missing one game because of a sore left groin. Crowder was listed as questionable for Sunday’s game after getting added to Wednesday’s injury report shortly before a win over the Houston Rockets.

The 27-year-old Payne has recovered from a suboptimal start to the season, thriving in place of Paul since the All-Star break. In 10 starts, Payne is averaging 14.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, 9.5 assists, 1.2 steals and only 2.2 turnovers per game while shooting 41.9% from the field.

Payne was coming back from an injury of his own to start in Paul’s position, missing the first three games Paul was out for because of a sprained right wrist. You figure that would give the Suns some familiarity to run off for this situation, but in that trio of outings, Johnson was the one moved into the starting lineup for a five built around Devin Booker as the point guard.

Williams said pregame it’ll be Elfrid Payton getting the start, electing for a more traditional point guard next to Booker instead of Aaron Holiday or Landry Shamet.

On Friday, Payton actually played in the rotation over Holiday for the first time in 10 games, a spot Holiday had quickly earned over Payton since arriving at the trade deadline. Williams said postgame that was due to Payton’s size against a big group of Chicago guards and how well Payton played against the Bulls in the teams’ first matchup. With that said, it was a move that gave some pause considering how much Holiday has consistently impacted the game compared to Payton’s general ineffectiveness.

That makes Sunday even more interesting considering both of them will need to play.

Center Frank Kaminsky (right stress reaction) is still working his way back after being out since mid-November and center Dario Saric (torn ACL) is out for the year. Then there’s recent two-way signing Iffe Lundberg, who is having visa issues and hasn’t been able to join the Suns since signing on March 12.

With those six absences, the Suns will have 11 available players in Sacramento.

Tip-off is set for 3 p.m. and you can hear it on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station

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