Still point guard of the future? Fred Hoiberg confident in Cameron Payne

Still point guard of the future? Fred Hoiberg confident in Cameron Payne

LAS VEGAS -- Since trading Derrick Rose, the Bulls’ relationship with the point guard spot has been “complicated”, if it were a Facebook status.

So while it’s not surprising to see the franchise’s evaluation of Cameron Payne fall flat to this point, one wonders how much progress should be expected given they still have Jerian Grant and acquired Kris Dunn on draft night.

Payne and Dunn played together in the backcourt in the Bulls’ Summer League opener Saturday and although the Bulls went to a two-point guard front, they looked disorganized and out of sorts for most of the game.

Not the best sign considering Payne was called the “point guard of the future” when he was acquired from Oklahoma City as the Bulls dumped Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott.

Considering the Bulls renounced the rights of Joffrey Lauvergne, making him an unrestricted free agent, Payne is the lone body remaining from the deal. And although the setting of Summer League is hardly the best ground to show what a player will do when the games really matter, going two for nine and missing all five 3-point attempts won’t do much to inspire confidence in Payne from the outside.

“I would agree with that. We watched a lot of clips on that this morning with Cam. He walked into a very difficult situation (in February),” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said following Sunday morning’s practice at UNLV’s Mendenhall Center

Hoiberg said Payne was a positive in the playoff prep for Boston’s Isaiah Thomas, where he played the role of Thomas for the scout team. Considering the way Thomas played in the series after Rajon Rondo was hurt, perhaps it was more the defense that was easily manipulated compared to the actual performance.

But the Bulls have confidence in Payne and will continue to express it outwardly, as evidenced by Payne being more on the ball than Dunn in the opener. Dunn expects to play more point guard Monday afternoon, though.

“Cam is a good basketball player. He’s a competitive kid,” Hoiberg said. “He was really disappointed last night. It’s all about bouncing back, watching film, getting better from it. Hopefully he finishes summer league strong.”

More than the statistics, it didn’t appear Payne had a strong feel for the game and its rhythm, requirement number one at that position. At times he rushes the offense while looking for his shot and even more, his cadence often gives away when he’ll forsake the offense to look for his own shot.

And considering the lack of positive experiences Payne has had since being acquired, one has to wonder about his confidence level being affected before it can actually be built.

“We talked a lot about going out there and just making the right basketball play, making simple plays,” Hoiberg said. “We had a lot of examples in our three-day minicamp that we had of making solid plays. When Dallas went on a run last night, it looked like it became my-turn basketball. We just came down and jacked up bad shots.”

On the criticism Payne has received, Hoiberg keeps pumping Payne up: “You can’t let negative comments affect the way you play. Hopefully he’ll be better tomorrow and throughout these last four or five games,” he said.

Payne has spent most of the offseason in Chicago, a must after Bulls VP John Paxson said Payne needs to work on his body and conditioning before next season

“Yeah, I feel like I began to improve. I’ve still got a ways to go, but I mean it’s a process,” Payne said. “I’ve been feeling pretty good. I’ve been in Chicago. That’s been my summer. Just trying to get bigger, stronger. Pick my conditioning up, improve my stamina on the court.’’

Stating pointedly that there’s no time for summer vacation, Payne hopes this experience is a building block for himself personally as he hopes to rewrite a narrative that hasn’t gone his way thus far.

“I mean of course. I mean Summer League is definitely a big task for us,” Payne said.  “We’ve got to build a good chemistry and it starts here. That’s going to translate into the regular season.”

On the other end of the Michael Carter-Williams trade, Tony Snell is about to get paid

On the other end of the Michael Carter-Williams trade, Tony Snell is about to get paid

Tony Snell never figured it out during his time with the Bulls, averaging 5.3 points on 40 percent shooting (and just 35 percent from deep) in three seasons.

He showed some promise on the defensive end as a lengthy 6-foot-7 wing, but eventually fell out of the rotation under first year head coach Fred Hoiberg.

So when the Bulls traded Snell to the Milwaukee Bucks less than two weeks before the regular season started, there was little surprise.

The Bulls had drafted wings Doug McDermott and Denzel Valentine in the previous two drafts, and it was clear Snell wouldn't be part of the rotation. In return they received Michael Carter-Williams, presumably to compete with Jerian Grant for the backup spot behind Rajon Rondo and act as a defensive presence on a team that desparately needed one at the position.

Fast forward eight months and it's clear that the Bulls took a massive loss on the trade, and now the Bucks are poised to lock up Snell long-term.

ESPN's Zach Lowe wrote Friday to expect the Bucks "to re-sign Tony Snell for something in the $10-12 million range" when free agency begins Friday night.

The money might seem steep, but Snell has warranted it. In Milwaukee, Snell averaged 8.5 points, provided superb defense and made 40.6 percent of his 3-pointers in 80 starts for the Bucks. Ironically he would have been a great piece for the Bulls to have as the rebuilding project began, seeing as they lost their best perimeter defender in Jimmy Butler. Snell will turn 26 in November.

Carter-Williams? He appeared in just 46 games, averaging 6.6 points on 36.6 percent shooting and 2.5 assists. He started 19 games but never carved out a real role. Earlier in the month the Bulls declined to give Carter-Williams a qualifying offer, making him an unrestricted free agent. He actually became the first former Rookie of the Year to not receive a qualifying offer.

The Bulls will move forward at the point with Dunn, Grant, and Cameron Payne.

Sources: Bulls will either trade or waive point guard Rajon Rondo

Sources: Bulls will either trade or waive point guard Rajon Rondo

The Rajon Rondo era in Chicago is coming to an end. Multiple sources told CSN Insider Vincent Goodwill that the Bulls will either trade or release last year's starting point guard prior to the start of free agency on Friday night.

The Bulls currently hold a team option to use on Rondo that would pay him $13.4 million next season. Waiving Rondo would cost the team $3 million. Another team looking to free up cap space could conceivably trade for Rondo and then waive him, although it seems unlikely that happens before free agency starts at 11:01 p.m.

Rondo was a surprising addition last year to a Bulls team that was trying to get "younger and more athletic," as general manager Gar Forman told the media after trading Derrick Rose.

Rondo, 30, had just completed a 2015-16 campaign with the Kings in which he led the NBA in assists per game (11.7) and shot a career-best 36.5 percent from beyond the arc. But question marks surrounding his defense and chemistry issues with head coaches - he played for three teams in as many seasons before joining the Bulls - remained.

Rondo was benched in January after a particularly poor stretch in December, although injuries thrust him back into the starting lineup after a five-game DNP streak. He clashed with stars Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade through an Instagram post, questioning their leadership, in February. He ended the regular season on a tear, averaging 10.8 points and 7.1 assists in 21 games after the All-Star break. He shot 46 percent from deep, 47 percent from the field and had the Bulls playing some of their best basketball during that stretch.

That play continued into the playoffs when Rondo shocked the top-seeded Celtics, averaging 11.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 10.0 assists in a pair of wins in Boston. But Rondo suffered a broken thumb in practice and missed the rest of the series, with the Celtics ultimately winning in six games.

Gar Forman and John Paxson told the media at the end of the year they expected to bring Rondo back, but that was  before they decided on draft night to deal Jimmy Butler and begin the rebuilding process. That traded netted them 23-year-old Kris Dunn and shooting guard Zach LaVine, and the team already has Cameron Payne and Jerian Grant at the position.