Cameron Payne is the next mid-major point guard to rise from obscurity

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NEW YORK – Over the past few years, a mid-major guard has worked his way up from the island of misfit schools to the green room at the NBA Draft.

In 2012, Damian Lillard was selected sixth overall by the Portland Trail Blazers after spending four years at Weber State.

In 2013, Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum joined Lillard in the Blazers’ backcourt as he was selected with the 10th pick.

Last year, Elfrid Payton and Elfrid Payton’s hair successfully made the leap from Louisiana-Lafayette to the lottery as he was selected by the Sixers with the 10th overall pick, but was traded while sitting at the interview podium to the Orlando Magic for Dario Saric, a second round pick in this year’s draft, and a 2017 first round pick.

This year it’s Cameron Payne’s turn to ascend from Murray State into one of the first 14 picks in the 2015 NBA Draft. Payne just has to wait a little while longer to hear his name come out of Adam Silver’s mouth and then he’ll be able to walk up to the stage with a gigantic smile on his face, the same smile that was on display during the pre-draft interviews on Wednesday.

It’s a smile that comes from a desire to tell his story with the masses, who are finally interested in learning about where the 20 year old point guard came from. Because when he was on his way to becoming the Ohio Valley Player of the Year as a sophomore in college, no one seemed to care, but now everyone is asking him to share his backstory.

“I wouldn’t want it any other way,” Payne said during the pre-draft interviews. “I really think this happened for a reason. I tell my story to every guy that I talk to.”

This is a whole new world for Payne, who suddenly finds himself navigating through a massive schedule of interviews. “Man at Murray I used to have one or two [interviews] every two weeks on Monday and now every day it’s like you have nine and then [tomorrow] you have three,” Murray said. He noted that he’s dealing with the added media responsibilities “pretty well.”

Payne’s versatile skill set as a point guard and superior basketball IQ have been the catalysts for his rising draft stock, but with the NBA currently in the golden era of point guards, it’s a gigantic plus to have the ability to play off of the ball, especially if he were to wind up next to Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City. Payne showed flashes of being dangerous without the ball in his hands at Murray State, but the Racers needed him to dominate the ball handling responsibilities.

“I can be a combo guard, I don’t need the ball to succeed,” Payne told NBCSports’ ProBasketballTalk. “But I feel my best attributes come from me having the ball, because I put people in the perfect situation to score and I mean perfect. People like playing with me because I can do that and not a lot of players can do that.”

Just watch the tape on Payne and you’ll see exactly what he’s talking about. I’ll wait here while you watch this Draft Express video.

https://youtu.be/hWse5O-Kb6E?t=1m11s

You’re back! Told ya the kid can pass the ball pretty freaking good, but if he ends up in OKC, he’ll get relegated to briefly running the Thunder’s second unit when Durant and Westbrook hit the bench.

Besides the Thunder, Payne has met with the Pacers, Lakers, Kings and Nuggets. Indiana would be an interesting fit if Larry Bird does decide to use the 11th overall pick on him, as Payne could be an immediate replacement for C.J. Watson, Rodney Stuckey, and Donald Sloan, who are all unrestricted free agents. Stuckey says he’s confident that he and the Pacers will work out a deal, but even if Stuckey does come back, Payne could replace the 1,422 minutes Watson played last year and would have a much better chance of running the point with an actual star playing alongside him.

Payne’s best chance to start immediately would be in Denver, but the Nuggets would have to find a trade suitor for Ty Lawson (George Karl is jumping up and down raising his hand) and receive another pick in the first round (George Karl is now doing jumping jacks). The Nuggets would fill one of their many holes with the first pick and then use the other on Payne as the replacement for Lawson.

Regardless of what happens on draft night, Cameron Payne has followed the path of success by following the advice of a mid-major trail blazer who helped pave the way for him.

source:

Twitter – @ScottDargis

Report: NBA not bringing other eight teams to Disney World bubble

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The NBA bringing the “Delete Eight” teams to its Disney World bubble to train as other teams depart?

Like other plans for the Knicks, Bulls, Cavaliers, Pistons, Hawks, Hornets, Timberwolves and Warriors… it’s not happening.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The NBPA has no interest in that idea, sources said. It’s a non-starter. The inevitable solution for the eight teams left out of Orlando: The NBA and NBPA agreeing upon voluntary workouts in the team facilities, sources said.

The NBPA won’t agree to mandatory reporting for players on the eight teams outside of the restart but will eventually allow it on a voluntary level, sources said.

Bringing those other eight teams to the Disney World bubble was always a ridiculous idea. Why would the NBA jeopardize its highly profitable setup just so some lousy teams could train and maybe hold glorified scrimmages?

Voluntary team workouts are a reasonable allowance. Though it’s difficult to ensure players coming and going from a team facility won’t spread coronavirus, some players are playing basketball in groups, anyway. At their own facilities, teams can at least enforce protocols to increase safety. And players who’d rather be more careful wouldn’t be forced to participate.

There’s no reason to make anything mandatory. These eight teams’ seasons are over.

Suns keep winning, T.J. Warren keeps scoring, Nuggets outlast Jazz in 2OT

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The Suns are unbeatable. T.J Warren is unstoppable. And the NBA is unapologetically fun.

Just another day in the NBA bubble.

Phoenix – already the NBA’s only undefeated team at Disney World – moved to 5-0 in seeding games with a 119-112 win over the Heat.

The Suns are still a half game outside play-in position with a tougher closing stretch than the ninth-place Trail Blazers.* But Phoenix sure is making the race interesting, and Portland isn’t closing the door.

*Both teams still play the 76ers and Mavericks. The Suns also play the Thunder. The Trail Blazers’ last seeding game is against the Nets.

Whether or not they make the playoffs, the Suns should absolutely be encouraged by this stretch. Unlike an early-season surge, when Aron Baynes and Ricky Rubio carried big loads, Phoenix’s young players are leading the charge now. Devin Booker scored 35 points tonight. Jevon Carter added 20 points on 6-of-8 3-point shooting off the bench. Deandre Ayton (18 points and 12 rebounds) continues to impress. Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson have steadily contributed at forward.

Expectations are rising for next season.

First, the Suns aren’t ready for this season to end soon.

All the best bubble stories were in Phoenix last season.

Pacers forward T.J. Warren – whom the Suns dumped with a draft-pick sweetener last summer – continued his scoring binge with 39 points in a 116-111 win over the Pacers.

Warren could always get buckets. But he has been on another level lately.

The Nuggets (somewhat safely in third place) and Jazz (who might prefer to finish sixth) had few obvious reasons to care about beating each other.

But then the game got going, and both teams’ competitive juices took over.

Donovan Mitchell drove for a layup to force overtime. Nikola Jokic converted inside to force double overtime. Finally, Jamal Murray – who scored 23 points in his first game of the resumption – put Denver up for good with a jumper then 3-pointer in a 134-132 victory.

Bubble games have featured such great energy and competitiveness.

Damian Lillard to Paul George on Instagram: ‘keep switching teams … running from the grind’

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Damian Lillard missed a pair of clutch free throws in the Trail Blazers’ loss to the Clippers today. Patrick Beverley and Paul George let Lillard hear about it. Lillard boasted in his post-game interview about his series-winning shots over Beverley’s Rockets in 2014 and George’s Thunder in 2019 (which literally came over George).

Now, the conflict has spilled onto Instagram.

Bleacher Report:

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Dame, PG and Pat Bev went at it in our comments 👀

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George:

And you getting sent home this year 🤣 respect✊

Beverley:

Cancun on 3😂😂😂

Lillard:

keep switching teams … running from the grind . You boys is chumps

George:

@damianlillard respect that too in my stint with my first team I had more success… Dame time running out g

George did lead the Pacers to Game 7 of the 2013 Eastern Conference finals, losing to the eventual-champion Heat. Indiana also pushed Miami to Game 6 in the 2014 Eastern Conference finals. George doesn’t get enough credit for those achievements.

Though Lillard’s Trail Blazers peaked in the 2019 Western Conference finals, they got swept by the team that lost in the NBA Finals.

But George forced his way out of Indiana despite that being the only place he could earn a super-max contract. He also re-signed with the Thunder, announcing his plan at a big party thrown by Russell Westbrook, then requested a trade to join Kawhi Leonard on the Clippers only a year later.

Lillard just has different sensibilities. He said he’d stick with the Trail Blazers rather than join a super team. Lillard even talked disparagingly about players who get pressured into bypassing super-max contracts in order to be viewed as a winner elsewhere.

So, this clash makes sense.

Maybe it got too personal for George, who has overcome major injury and returned even better. He surely doesn’t want to be called a chump at this point in his career.

But I disagree with George’s championships-only argument. There is plenty of room for major achievements that fall short of a title – like the Pacers’ deep playoff runs George cited. And Lillard’s series-winning shot last year. George was the casualty on that play. There’s no way around it, and it’s likely still a sore spot. That was a high-profile moment that supersedes missed free throws in a seeding game.

Lillard and George can go back-and-forth about their accomplishments. Both have done plenty in this league. Their individual routes to success show their contrasting values. Neither are wrong. They’re just different.

That’s perfectly fine and – when it leads to spats like this – fun.

Damian Lillard misses clutch FTs, Trail Blazers blow key game against Clippers backups

Damian Lillard vs. Clippers
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The Clippers – maybe wanting to give the Lakers a tougher first-round matchup – showed their lack of interest in beating the Trail Blazers today by sitting Kawhi Leonard. Down five with two minutes left, the Clippers really waved the white flag by closing with a lineup of:

But that group ended the game on a 12-2 run to hand Portland a devastating 122-117 loss.

The Trail Blazers are now just half a game up for ninth in the Western Conference. This further opens the door for the Spurs, Pelicans, Suns and even Kings to make a play-in (and gives the Grizzlies more breathing room for advancing to that stage).

After McGruder hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 26 seconds left, Damian Lillard drew a pair of free throws with Portland down one. Lillard is arguably the NBA’s most clutch player, and he had made 89% of his free throws this season. But he missed both – to the particular delight of injured Clippers guard Patrick Beverley:

Beverley and Lillard have a longstanding personal rivalry. The Clippers also have Paul George.

After the game, Lillard – who hit a series-winning shot against Beverley’s Rockets in 2014 and another series-winning shot over George, who was with the Thunder, last year – didn’t mince words.

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

Lillard:

Asking me about Patrick Beverley, who – I sent him before at the end of a game. Paul George just got sent home by me last year in the playoffs. So, they know. The reason they’re reacting like that is because of what they expect from me, which is a sign of respect, and it just shows what I’ve done at a high clip more times than not. So, I’m not offended by it. If anything, it should just tell you how much it hurt them to go through what I put them through in those situations previously.

I love Lillard’s ability to remain calm and in control. Kudos for him for finding a way to boast after missing a pair of free throws that effectively cost his team a big game. Really. Lillard’s emotional maturity is an asset.

Expect the Trail Blazers to follow his lead and not further unravel. They can and probably should still be favored to reach the play-in.

But their margin for error definitely just shrunk.