On the eve of the NBA Finals, Cam Payne’s story book season has a definite Memphis feel to it


Phoenix Suns guard Cameron Payne, left, celebrates with forward Mikal Bridges after the Suns won Game 6 of the NBA basketball Western Conference Finals against the Los Angeles Clippers Wednesday, June 30, 2021, in Los Angeles. The Suns won the game 130-103 to take the series 4-2. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

PHOENIX — “But here, nah. Not even a little bit.”

That was Cameron Payne’s reaction on Monday when the Memphian and former Lausanne star was asked if he ever thought he’d be sitting here, getting ready to play in the NBA Finals.

What a story it has been for Payne, from NBA outcast to the NBA Finals.

After bouncing around the NBA, playing for three different teams since being a first round pick of the Oklahoma City Thunder back in 2015, playing in the GLeague…three different times…Payne was forced to play overseas in China.

Now, Payne has not only worked his way back onto an NBA roster.

He is playing for an NBA title, earning a back-up role to veteran Chris Paul in Phoenix where he is averaging over 10 points and 4 assists during these playoffs.

Last Wednesday, on the one year anniversary of signing with the Suns, Phoenix clinched a spot in the NBA Finals for the first time in nearly three decades.

“To be honest, when I first signed, I just wanted to be able to get some time.  I just wanted to be able to get some time in the bubble. Try to make someone’s roster, this season basically. I had a pretty good bubble run” Payne said.  “I ain’t think all this was going to come around, us making it to the Finals.  Not even a little bit.  It’s a crazy rollercoaster, this thing here.  Life’s crazy.  I just put the work in, put the time in because I never want to be back at the bottom.  Going to China and stuff like that.  It’s just built me a little different coming in on this next go around.  Just keep my head down.  Keep working.  Do it for the name on the back of the jersey.”

With his hometown of Memphis, a huge piece of this successful second act for Payne.

“A lot of people go to Miami.  A lot of people go to L.A. to get their workout.  Work out with all these different type of guys.  Sometimes you just have to go back home and try to get it raw,” Payne said.  “I went back home and tried to get that back.  Get that Memphis ‘umph’ back.  In my game because I kind of veered away from it.  That Grit and Grind, the Grizzlies have that same little saying but it’s really just a Memphis thing.  We have to grind out for everything we get.”

Payne and the Suns host the Milwaukee Bucks in game one of the NBA Finals on Tuesday night.

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