PHOENIX, Ariz. — The saying goes, always be ready for the day when your number is called.
That’s exactly what Former Lausanne standout Cameron Payne has done for the Phoenix Suns, as they are on a quest to win their first NBA Championship. He has earned the respect of Suns fans by being a difference maker whether he is coming off the bench or more recently starting for the Suns in replace of Chris Paul, who is out indefinitely after entering the NBA’s Health and Safety protocols last Wednesday.
Trying to fight off the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals, the Suns needed all hands on deck, and as their franchise player Devin Booker struggled. Payne answered the call by scoring a career-high 29 points is his second career postseason start, on 11-of-19 shooting.
“Honestly, I’m just holding it down for C [Chris Paul],” said Payne after the 104-103 victory over the Clippers. “I’m just trying to hold it down until C get back. If it means me scoring, I’m willing to do it. My only thing is no turnovers. I’m trying to keep that same identity because I’m the point guard. So, I just try to come out there and hold it down for C, play my game and live with the results.”
Paul has been a great mentor to Payne during his time with the Suns. Payne has said before the playoffs, Paul told him that they were going to workout with one another. Additionally, Payne said he and Paul talk constantly about the game plans and match-up to ensure they’re ready for their opponent.
Though Paul is out at this time, Payne said he is still being a leader to him and the team via phone calls and Facetime.
“For sure, I talk to C [Chris Paul] everyday,” Payne said. “Like I said, I’m just trying to hold it down. C’s calling. I probably got a missed call already. C’s calling. But that’s what he do though. That’s why he is who he is… a lot of people don’t do that. His communication is at a high level. And that’s big time for our team.”
Payne knocked down 2 of his 6 three-point attempts and dished 9 assists in the win, matching his postseason career high that he set in Game 1 against the Clippers on Sunday.
Additionally, his 29 points Tuesday night are the fourth-most points scored by a Suns player making either their first or second career postseason start for Phoenix, trailing only Devin Booker (34 points in Game 1 vs. LAL on 5/23/21 and 31 points in Game 2 vs. LAL on 5/25/21) and Kevin Johnson (34 points in Game 2 vs. DEN on 4/30/89), according to the Suns’ PR department.
Payne’s route to the Western Conference Finals is considered untraditional and inspiring to many. His career started in Memphis and took him to Murray State. He was drafted 14th overall in the 2015 NBA Draft.
From 2015 to 2019, Payne bounced between the NBA and the G-League and two years ago was out of the league, playing basketball overseas in China. Last summer, Payne signed with the Suns and made his debut during the 2020 NBA Bubble.
Now the Memphis-area native is just two wins away from being in the NBA Finals.
The Suns and Clippers will play in Game 3 of the NBA Western Conference Finals on Thursday at 8 p.m.