When the Bulls traded Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott for Cameron Payne and others at the deadline, it was said that Payne had star potential and he could be a point guard of the future.
With the operative word being, "future", Payne was dispatched to the Bulls’ D-League team in Hoffman Estates for the next couple days as the Bulls head to Toronto for a game against the Raptors.
"He’s going to practice with Windy City this afternoon and then he’ll play in tomorrow’s game," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "And then the plan is to see how things go with the game, practice with Windy City again on Wednesday and then play in the game on Thursday as well."
Payne has missed time with soreness in his right foot, a foot that’s been operated on twice in his career. Getting acclimated to a new team, along with playing time that wasn’t easy to come by in Oklahoma City, hasn’t been easy.
He’s shown more of an aggressiveness to shoot than playmaking in his nine games as a Bull, jacking up nearly nine triples per 36 minutes and shooting 33 percent from three.
"I'm just trying to float the offense. It's not just about putting up shots for me, but I'm gonna take an open shot if it's there," Payne said last week. "I'm not gonna pass up an open shot at all, because I feel like that would hurt the offense.
"If it's an extra pass or a shot, you've got to take it. Fortunately, a lot of those shots come to me when I'm wide open so I've got to take them to help the offense."
With Gibson contributing as expected in Oklahoma City and McDermott having a couple breakout games sprinkled into his stint, the Bulls seem to have a lot invested in Payne, so the D-League assignment could be seen as a sign Payne isn’t yet ready for prime-time.
He was another in a point guard rotation that included Michael Carter-Williams, Jerian Grant and veteran Rajon Rondo, who returned to the starting lineup last week in Charlotte after being pulled in late December.
When the mantra seemed like Hoiberg was going to give everybody a chance, one wondered if the game was moving too fast for Payne. He often turned the ball over in bunches, but he hasn’t had the practice time to acclimate to the offense, either.
Payne has spent time with Hoiberg looking at film to see where he can get his opportunities, but it wasn’t going to be an easy transition.
And being that he was singled out by the front office as a prime reason for trading a veteran like Gibson and McDermott, whom many feel was still developing, he’ll face a lot of pressure when he does get out there.
Luckily for Payne, he carries an easygoing demeanor and gets along well with his teammates as he’s struggled.
"I think I've played alright," Payne said. "It's been hard trying to get adjusted, but I've been playing alright, on and off. I've had a lot of turnovers, which I've got to clean up. But I feel like it's just getting used to playing with the guys I'm playing with. I'll definitely play better."