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Cameron Payne owes resurrected NBA career to former Suns star Penny Hardaway

Suns, Cameron Payne, Penny Hardaway

Phoenix Suns guard Cameron Payne is one of the best feel-good stories in the NBA. It’s no secret that he almost got banished from the league after short stints with several teams.

But while his rejuvenated NBA career was because of his pure determination and relentless pursuit, Payne could also credit former Suns superstar Penny Hardaway for helping him regain his footing. Former Coach of the Year Sam Mitchell, who served as Hardaway’s assistant coach at Memphis University in 2018-2019, saw firsthand how Payne was supported by the NBA legend (via Basketball Network).

“I saw this young man hit the bottom, and I saw every day with no fanfare him coming to the gym at the University of Memphis and working with Penny Hardaway. So it does not surprise me—his attitude is 100% better, his conditioning and the fact he’s seizing the moment and his humility.”

Payne, who was born in Memphis, didn’t have much confidence during that time, but Mitchell said it was Hardaway who first believed the lefty guard could bounce back and return to the NBA.

“Cameron Payne was in our gym every day for two hours, working out with Penny Hardaway. He was out of shape. He was overweight. So I asked Penny, ‘P, is he gonna get it back?’ He said, ‘We’re gonna find out.'”

Now, Payne is an integral part of the Suns, playing the best stretch of his NBA career. He will be a free agent in the offseason and could attract many suitors.

Hardaway, meanwhile, also has the chance to return to the NBA as he’s reportedly being eyed to coach his other former squad, Orlando Magic.