“I would love to start tomorrow,” Cameron Payne said about next season.
The Phoenix Suns spent nearly two months inside the Orlando bubble where it remained basketball 24/7. The team exhausted their energy night-in and night-out as they shocked the world and overcame all odds, finishing undefeated against the NBA’s best.
Living and breathing basketball is what many of the players in the Suns locker room have always been about - which became a key contributor to their success on the court. While others would have felt trapped, the Suns embraced the opportunity and entered a world that they felt comfortable in.
“The bubble life is my life, honestly,” Jevon Carter said. “I kind of live my life in a bubble. I don’t do too much outside of basketball. It’s no different for me.”
Despite spending countless hours sweating, training and battling inside the gym over the past few months, many of the Suns have forgone their off-season and went straight back to work.
“I took 10 days off and I was right back here in Phoenix,” Payne said. “I worked out a week or two at home and then I came straight out here to Phoenix and kept getting work in.”
Payne was an eleventh-hour addition to the Suns roster just prior to traveling to Orlando. The 26-year-old NBA veteran made the most of his opportunity, becoming a key contributor for the team and providing an essential spark off the bench.
After not playing in the NBA since January 2019, Payne averaged 10.9 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.0 assists and a steal while shooting 51.7 percent from three-point range for the Suns. Following a short breather, Payne is right back in the gym, training every day to prove that he belongs in this league and continues to expand on his bubble performance
“Honestly, it's because I got a taste of the NBA back,” Payne said. “I got it back and I don't want to lose it. I'm just on a different level of being locked in right now and just seeing what I can do to be better. I can't just let up on the grind. Leading up to the bubble, I was grinding my butt off every day and I saw the results. I came out in the bubble and played fairly well. I've seen the recipe and now I just have got to keep doing it and be as consistent as I can. That's getting back in the gym immediately and working out.”
Payne isn’t the only one back to the grind as much of the Suns roster has opted to stay in Phoenix and continue to train just as they had in Orlando. Rather than the bubble causing everyone to want a break from each other and basketball, it instead created a bond between the team to want to continue to develop together toward the future of the franchise.
“It's great,” Payne said. “I think the biggest thing was the bubble, as crazy as it sounds. We were around each other a lot. So, I feel like everyone is comfortable with being around each other even more. Sometimes you can get the feeling that you don't really want to see those guys, but here it feels like family. We all have a good feel just being around each other. It makes it fun. It makes it easier.
Payne credits the Suns organization for not only giving him the opportunity to be a part of the team, but for providing him the resources to continue to grow his game.
“Some organizations you may not be able to get back into the gym,” Payne said. “They may tell you to stay away even longer. Being around everyone here in the organization, everyone is ready to work, but not just pressing you. Get your time in and we're going to be here to watch you. It's cool to come into the gym and be comfortable around everyone. That's a hidden gem that you don't get with every team. I applaud the organization for that. When I came in, being around the guys was comfortable - being around the coaches was comfortable.”
Payne is taking full advantage of the resources given to him and the chance to carve a role into the Suns lineup next season. He has worked with the Suns coaches and training staff to develop a precise plan in order to stay in shape throughout the off-season as well as improve his overall game.
“Changing my body,” Payne said. “I've been on my diet. My main thing is to transform my body, get my body fat down, build some muscle, try to be a big guard and just try to be as consistent as I can on my jumper. It opens up a lot of my game if I can be consistent with that. So, I'm huge on my jumper and getting my body right.”
After watching the team shine and go undefeated as Suns fans cheered from their couches, the Valley is anxiously awaiting the tip-off for next season. Just as the anticipation is growing among the deeply-rooted fanbase in Arizona, that same excitement is instilled inside the players as well.
“I can't wait,” Payne said. “I would love to start tomorrow. I hate having this long of an off-season. With that 8-0, I can't wait for us to start back up playing. I feel like whenever we start, we'll have that same momentum. Everyone knows that we're close. Everyone on our team knows that we're right there. Now we feel like we know what we have to do and I feel like everyone's ready to get back out there and show it. Let's get back to it. We had the great run and we don't want to let it up, especially when you go out winning. Everyone is ready to get back and I can't wait.”
For a more in-depth visual inside the bubble, tune-in Wednesday on the Suns YouTube Channel at 11 a.m. PT as we take you behind-the-scenes in this week’s episode of “Don’t Sleep on Basketball.”
Don’t Sleep on Basketball is a content series that captures the unprecedented times we’re facing through the lens of the Phoenix Suns and Mercury. Basketball sits at the intersection of culture, entertainment and sport, which puts the Suns & Mercury organization in the perfect position to serve as participant, voyeur and storyteller during this unparalleled era. The dynamic initiative is available across multiple mediums, including FOX Sports Arizona, Suns and Mercury social channels, YouTube, and editorially on Suns.com.