Cameron Payne injury is setback to the point guard’s development

WASHINGTON — The Bulls’ Cameron Payne experiment is running out of time.

After they acquired the second-year player in a trade-deadline deal that sent Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott to the Oklahoma City Thunder, the plan was to get the “point guard of the future” acclimated as quickly as possible with a big dose of playing time. But his injured right foot — on which he has had two surgeries — continued to throw a wrench in those plans this week.

Payne missed the Bulls’ loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday, then didn’t even make the trip to Washington on Friday because his foot was still sore. Coach Fred Hoiberg ruled him out of Saturday’s home game with the Utah Jazz as well.

“You know what — it sounds like he’s feeling a lot better [Friday],” Hoiberg said. “He stayed back with Dwyane [Wade in Chicago] and with our physical therapist, and they’ve been working on it the last few days. Sounds like he’s pain-free right now.

“He’ll sit out one more game [Saturday], and then we’ll go from there and evaluate it. But from everything I’ve heard, they don’t think it’s a long-term issue.”

Payne didn’t think it was, either. He has a screw in the right foot and said it acts up now and again, especially with an increased workload since coming to the Bulls. While he couldn’t put a timetable on a return, he said he thought he would be back this coming week.

Meanwhile, the front office is said to consider it crucial that Payne get experience with his new team, with one source claiming general manager Gar Forman had been pushing the coaching staff to play him.

Hoiberg, who’d been playing Payne nearly 15 minutes per game, had been looking to narrow his playing time before the injury, focusing more on trying to win games than developing Payne — a decision the Bulls’ veterans were said to appreciate.

If the Bulls’ playoff hopes continue to slip, Hoiberg may focus on Payne’s development again. However, even if he returns next week, there will only be 12 games left on the schedule.

One eye on the others

The Bulls, who are on the outside looking in for a playoff spot, need some help and will be watching scoreboards to see how other teams are faring.

“I think you have to,” Hoiberg said. “I think everybody will look at it. [But] the biggest thing is [to] worry about us.”

Coach Wade?

Wade’s hope is that as soon as he’s cleared to travel with his fractured right elbow, he can be on the sidelines for his teammates in an assistant coach capacity.

“When things happen like this, you still have a role, and you have to play your role,” Wade said. “I definitely have a role to still be a leader, to still be a voice when I’m there and able to travel, or whenever we’re at home, to try to continue to help this team.”

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Email: jcowley@suntimes.com


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