KEY POINTS

  • Cameron Payne signed a two-year deal with Phoenix in 2020
  • The back-up point guard almost quit the NBA two years ago
  • Payne is averaging 7.7 points and 3.5 assists this season

Cameron Payne's productive showing for the Western Conference contender Phoenix Suns makes people forget that two years ago, he was ready to give up on his NBA journey.

The 26-year-old lottery pick had just spent injury-riddled stints with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Chicago Bulls before bouncing around G-League teams.

In an exclusive interview with SB Nation, Payne revealed that when the Toronto Raptors released him in the 2019 preseason, he thought he was done.

"After they released me, it was just like where do I go from here? And I kinda felt like that was my last opportunity," Payne told Bright Side of the Sun's Dave King.

Payne was so discouraged by the string of events that he lost basketball shape.

Already thinking of quitting, the 6-foot-1 point guard even admitted having cramps "everywhere" when he suited up for CBA club Shanxi Loongs as he was keen on just "chilling" and "drinking Cokes."

After China, Payne headed back home and had a short-lived time with the Texas Legends when the NBA suspended play in March 2020 due to the pandemic.

The Suns only gave Payne a shot when the league resumed in its Orlando bubble as circumstances pushed the team desperately looking for a back-up point guard.

They signed Payne to a two-year deal, that time around, he was not going to waste the newfound opportunity.

"I was like I made it back, and I’m not getting out until it’s time. I’m gonna give it my all, every game. I got to because even one game it could be over," Payne said.

He went on to average 10.9 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 3.0 assists on 51.8% threes, helping the Suns in their magical 8-0 bubble run that served as a prelude to a spectacular season this year.

The 14th overall pick of the 2017 Draft, behind All-Star teammate Devin Booker, is now on pace to play the most regular-season games in his young career.

Not only has Payne turned into a serviceable role player, he is doing it while also learning from a future legend in 11-time All-Star Chris Paul.

"It’s crazy to think about it like that, but it’s true. You have to stay locked in and really be dedicated to this work in order to reap those benefits," Payne added, realizing for as long as he does not shut the door close, good things can happen.

“You learn a lot when you go through things, experience things. I probably wouldn’t want it any better way.”

Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns Photo: Getty Images | Sean Gardner