'Love it': Suns point guards Chris Paul, Cameron Payne sharing court
Chris Paul is the veteran starting point guard who leads, runs the show and closes the games.
Cameron Payne is the backup who changes the pace, can get to the basket and brings the energy.
The two have shared the floor in the past, but they haven’t had many opportunities to do so this season for the Suns.
Due to injuries, Paul and Payne have just played in the same 24 games.
Payne usually replaces Paul, but they were out there together in the second and fourth quarters of Phoenix's 116-113 win over Orlando on Thursday. It was only the eighth game they'd been on the court together.
“I love it,” Paul said. “I told (Suns coach Monty Williams) in the Milwaukee game. We only did it for like a couple of minutes, but I think it can be a weapon for us cause both of us, with the ability to dribble and handle the ball, gives us an opportunity to attack from different angles and not just dribbling the ball up the court.”
Phoenix (38-32) begins a three-game road trip Sunday at Oklahoma City, where Paul and Payne have previously played in their careers. The two combined for 34 points, 12 assists to just three turnovers on Thursday.
"Just confidence," said Payne, who went 3-of-5 from 3. "Just going out there and being confident."
Phoenix did see a six-point lead evaporate into a tie game with 5:50 remaining in the fourth when Paul and Payne were in the game together Thursday along with Devin Booker in a three-guard lineup.
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Still, having two point guards on the floor at the same time is an option for the Suns, especially with Kevin Durant out with a left ankle sprain. Payne can provide a scoring punch to help offset the loss of Durant.
Paul and Payne have only been on the court together for a total of 19 minutes this season. Last season, they played 219 total minutes together in 33 games and the Suns were a plus-5 during that time.
“I feel like it’ll be real effective,” Payne said about playing with Paul. “Just having two ball handlers on the court in general. Book be out there handling the ball and him and 3, so it’ll be cool being out there with 3. I get to play off the ball.”
Paul has been playing off the ball more this season, but Payne sees being out there with him as a way to free him up to go to work on a “lesser” defender.
“The good guards go guard him and I get the lesser guard,” Payne smiled. “It’d be fine. I love being out there with 3.”
Payne has missed 32 games this season, with 30 due to multiple right foot injuries; Paul was sidelined 21 games,14 because of right heel soreness.
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Payne returned after the All-Star break on Feb. 24 against Oklahoma City. He’s coming off an 18-point effort in Thursday’s win after scoring 13 in Tuesday’s loss to Milwaukee.
“That was great for our team, for Cam,” Paul said. “He deserves it. Cam puts the work in day in and day out. It was great because our team feeds off that energy and he was great.”
Late in the third against Orlando, Payne gave the Suns a jolt with seven points and an assist to Deandre Ayton to put them up, 92-80.
“He’s starting to get back to the Cam Payne that we all know and love and appreciate, and it takes guys a while,” Williams said. “He’s had some nagging injuries this season and when you take that time off, sometimes it take you a minute to get going again, especially playing the point guard position. He’s starting to score the ball and pass. His interior passing has started to pick up and I thought he had a really nice find to Ish (Wainright) in the corner, making a read.”
Wainright’s 3 off Payne’s assist tied the game at 39-39 with 9:10 left in the first half.
“His speed and his juice, I think it elevates our team,” Williams added about Payne.
Have opinion about current state of the Suns? Reach Suns Insider Duane Rankin at email@example.com or contact him at 480-787-1240. Follow him on Twitter at @DuaneRankin.
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