Bulls still think Cameron Payne is ‘point guard of the future’

When describing point guard Cameron Payne recently, coach Fred Hoiberg employed the term “raw.’’

That’s one way to look at him.

Payne was sidelined Wednesday with a sore right foot, but since being acquired in the trade-deadline deal with the Thunder, Payne has been more suspect than prospect.

If he indeed is the “point guard of the future,’’ as the Bulls’ front office described him when it made the deal, well, there’s a lot of work to do as far as his development.

In the seven games before his surgically repaired foot acted up, Payne averaged 15.6 minutes, six points, 1.6 assists and 1.6 turnovers and shot 28 percent from three-point range, and he was anything but gun-shy.

“I think I’ve played all right,’’ Payne said. “It’s been hard trying to get adjusted, but I’ve been playing all right, 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.’’

As far as his shoot-first, ask-questions-later mentality, don’t expect the second-year player to tone that down.

“I’m just trying to float the offense,’’ Payne said. “It’s not just about putting up shots for me, but I’m gonna take an open shot if it’s there. 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.’’

Making them would be a much bigger help.

Not that Payne came from the Thunder as a big threat from the outside, shooting 32 percent from three-point range as a rookie last season.

What remains to be seen is how much playing time Hoiberg will  give him as the playoff race heats up over the next three-plus weeks.

Payne didn’t think the injury was major even though he still has a screw in the foot from the two surgeries he has undergone. But will Payne’s development clash with the Bulls playing in must-win games the rest of the season?

Also, will the front office pressure Hoiberg to keep playing Payne so that it can somehow feel like it won the trade with Oklahoma City?

Hoiberg remained mum on the subject, once again falling back on the patented reply of “it depends on the flow of the game.’’

He did say Payne is a work in progress. The coaching staff is feeding him film on an almost daily basis so that he can get a grasp of his new surroundings.

“He’s a confident kid,’’ Hoiberg said. “You can tell the way he practices, the way he plays, he’s got a nice swagger to him.’’

Decisions, decisions
The Bulls own the $13.4 million option on Rajon Rondo next season and can buy him out for $3 million if they want to move on.

Rondo said he has not spoken to management about its intentions. That will be a conversation for a later day.

“I’ll visit that in the offseason,’’ Rondo said. “I’m just focused on trying to make the playoffs and do what I can for this team to help us win each game.’’

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.
Email: jcowley@suntimes.com


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