Cam Payne found himself heading to the locker room early during the Phoenix Suns Game 1 victory against the Los Angeles Lakers after an on-court scuffle, something the reserve guard hopes to put behind him going forward.
Payne was ejected after getting into a confrontation with Lakers guard Alex Caruso and then Montrezl Harrell, who came in late and bumped him. Payne took the blame for the incident and said he apologized to his team.
“I just felt like (Caruso) undercut me first and it was a no-call,” Payne told reporters Monday. “I didn’t mean to knock him … to the ground. Got to sell it. He fell. Then he came, retaliated and I retaliated. That’s probably the part I shouldn’t have did.
“It’s not something that I do. I apologized to every single player that walked in (to the locker room). After coach got done talking, I apologized to him. They was all on my side. They said they had my back.”
Payne said there are no hard feelings over the dust-up.
“I just want to win. That’s my only goal,” he said. “I don’t have no vendettas against no players, not trying to get nobody. I’m just a competitor, to be honest.”
Payne on Harrell: ‘Came Out of Nowhere’
While there are no vendettas, Payne wasn’t expecting Harrell to bowl in like a bull in a china shop and questioned how the technical fouls were distributed. He earned a pair and the ejection, while Harrell and Caruso were tagged with one apiece.
“It kind of came out of nowhere. I didn’t expect him to grab me. I was kind of weird,” Payne said. “What Trez did, I’m pretty sure it was all good intentions. Asked me if I was good and I was fine. The play was over to me, it was all good — tick, tick, tick, I was going to be cool.
“It was weird how they gave out the Ts, but it’s all part of the game, all part of the series, I’ll say.”
Payne emerged as a key bench player for the Suns this season, averaging 18 minutes and 8.4 points. He shot a strong 44 percent from beyond the arc and gave the Suns a reliable option behind Chris Paul after struggling to catch on early on in his career in Oklahoma City, Cleveland and Chicago.
Suns Update Status of Chris Paul After Injury
The absence of Paye was amplified by an injury to Paul, who went down holding his shoulder in the first half. Paul returned to play but did not look 100%, losing the handle on the ball multiple times and scoring just seven points.
“He seems to be progressing in a good way,” Suns coach Monty Williams told reporters on Monday. “He’s obviously sore but that’s all we have to report at this time.”
Paul has said he’ll be ready to play in Game 2 and the medical staff seems to have cleared him going forward, although his status has yet to be offically determined.
“If one of our medical members thought that we were putting him in a bad situation, they would tell me. He would have never been allowed to play,” Williams said. “When he went to the back, they put him through a number of tests and they realized that he couldn’t hurt himself more by playing.”
The Lakers are a 1.5-point favorite for Game 2 in Phoenix, with the total set at 208 points.