Suns’ Payne: ‘I just work really hard every day to stay here’

Phoenix Suns point guard Chris Paul gave the team everything he had on Tuesday night in Game 2 against the Los Angeles Lakers, but he was clearly hampered after injuring his shoulder in the team’s Game 1 victory.

In 23 minutes last night, Paul had six points and five assists in the Suns’ 109-102 loss to the Lakers at Phoenix Suns Arena. With the win, the Lakers evened the series 1-1. The series shifts to Los Angeles for Games 3 and 4 starting on Thursday night. 

Without Paul, the Suns got solid production from backup point guard Cameron Payne, who scored eight of his 11 points in the fourth quarter in Game 2. Payne, who also added six assists against the Lakers, was signed by the Suns before the bubble last season and performed well during the team’s eight-game run in Orlando. 

While Payne got an opportunity on Tuesday night, he was disappointed for Paul. 

“It’s always tough to see anybody on our team down,” Payne said. “We’ll get him back. It was tough, but we got next man mentality. Everybody gotta be ready.”

After trailing by 15 points in the third quarter, the Suns took their first lead in the second half in the fourth quarter with Payne on the court. According to Payne, the Suns have that never say die attitude. 

“I feel like we have been in those positions before,” Payne said about the team coming from behind. “We just feel like we can win every game, so we just keep willing.”

The 26-year-old Payne has bounced around the NBA during his five-year career, including spending time in the G League and overseas. Payne, who averaged 8.4 points, 3.6 assists, and 2.6 rebounds per game this season, wants to stay in the NBA, and he will do everything in his power to make sure that happens. 

“Before, I would probably say I was comfortable,” he said. “I listened; I just didn’t take it in… I work hard; I work to keep my job. I gotta earn it all, so I go in humble but confident. I just have to keep working hard, and the work shows. Go in and get my reps. He(Monty Williams) got this quote, “Reps remove doubt.” When I get out there on the court, I put the work in… Your job could be gone.  It hit me in the face already. I got hit with that reality check, and I don’t want to not be in the league, so I just work really hard every day to stay here.”

With how things are looking for Paul, Payne will have a great opportunity with the Suns, and they’re going to need him to be at his very best if they want to advance. The goal is to get Paul healthy, but if that does not happen, it’s on Payne to try to help pull Phoenix through.

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