Promising young guard Cameron Payne completed the first hurdle in his road to full recovery Tuesday night. The Oklahoma City Thunder's 2015 first-round draft pick scored 14 points in reserve duty as the OKC Blue narrowly defeated the Salt Lake City Stars in NBA Development League action.
This marked Payne’s first official-game appearance since re-injuring the fifth metatarsal of his right foot during Oklahoma City's Blue-White intrasquad scrimmage on Sept. 27.
Though Payne shot just 5-of-19 overall, his foot seemed sturdy, as noted by Erik Horne of the Oklahoman.
Payne absorbing contact and finishing a good sign. Tied the game too. 76-76.— Erik Horne (@ErikHorneOK) January 4, 2017
The 6’3 Payne led all scorers with eight fourth-quarter points amid a decisive late Blue rally. Fellow first-round Thunder prospect Josh Huestis’ impressive dunk placed OKC ahead for good with 1:01 remaining.
As the brash, young floor general's initial 16-17’ competitive debut generated positive reviews; Payne is likely to suit up once more with the Development League affiliate before making an anticipated Jan. 7 main roster return vs. Denver.
Jan 7th it's gone be Lit!— Cameron Payne (@campayne) December 31, 2016
Throughout Payne's absence, rookie Semaj Christon has struggled to provide consistent minutes as the team’s backup point guard. The 24-year-old averages just 3.2 ppg, and 2.5 apg while logging 15.5 mpg.
The Thunder should immediately benefit from a healthy Payne's effusive energy. Last season, the feisty reserve assumed a vital leadership role with an Oklahoma City Thunder bench unit that buoyed a memorable Western Conference Finals run.
Overall, the 2015 Draft lottery pick netted stout 15-16’ per-36 minute averages of 14.6 ppg, 5.6 apg, and 4.4 rpg.
While Victor Oladipo recently rejoined the Thunder following a ten-game vacancy, Payne’s full incorporation will provide crucial depth along a trying January stretch —which includes eleven road games— for the 21-14 Thunder.
WTLC will continue to follow the up-to-date recovery progress of second-year standout Cameron Payne.