Thunder Up: Growing Payne

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Megan Avi HeaderCameron Payne is an enigma.

Remember when you went to your first semester of college thinking you were God’s gift to your university? You had finished high school in the top 10%, you took AP classes for fun, you had been published in the newspaper- majoring in Neuroscience was going to be a breeze. Then you get to school and everyone in your class was a valedictorian or had been handpicked by the Chancellor to be there. Fast forward to Christmas break and you’ve failed out of Chemistry because you can’t memorize stupid chemical formulas as well as those robots that sit in the front row every class and ruin the grading curve.

Cameron Payne is that asshole in the front row.

Though he looks like one of the coach’s kids that the team let sub in during a scrimmage because they were short a man, Cameron Payne has taken full command of the Thunder’s second unit. The rookie oozes confidence and watches Russell Westbrook like a hawk to pick up any tips he can. Payne got a few looks early in OKC’s season, but couldn’t quite get his NBA feet under him. As a rookie, he was too point driven when the second unit needed an assist based guard. Some of his issues were out of his control, though, in that the Thunder bench was all over the place with Waiters (who can be a bit of a ball hog) at its head.

Late December, Coach Billy Donovan made a necessary change, fueled by repeated strong performances from Enes Kanter. Dropping Waiters and DJ Augustin to more supportive roles, Donovan elected to have Payne lead the second unit with one simple goal in mind: set up Kanter. Payne went above and beyond this, immediately assuming a leadership role, directing his teammates with authority, and showing the restraint of a veteran on when to take his shot. The rookie has already been likened former OKC player, James Harden. Cameron Payne will need a little fine tuning on how to play with the big boys, as he falls into foul traps pretty easily, but he is well on his way to becoming a star.

Tune into ESPN tonight to watch the Thunder take on the struggling LA Lakers at 9:30.

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