Suns’ Cameron Payne Sends Shoutout to Nets’ Mikal Bridges

Brooklyn Nets

Getty Cameron Payne #15 of the Phoenix Suns.

New Brooklyn Nets star Mikal Bridges made quite an impact on the Phoenix Suns.

“I got to see them before they took off and it was emotional,” Suns head coach Monty Williams referring to Bridges and fellow trade piece, Cameron Johnson per Duane Rankin of AZ Central on Twitter. “Those two are near and dear to my heart. They literally are like my family.”

Williams’ sentiments are not particularly surprising. But words – such as those eloquently spoken by Deandre Ayton and Devin Booker – do not speak nearly as loudly as actions.

Imitation is the highest form of flattery.

That three put the Suns up 104-92 in an eventual 124-115 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on February 24. It was Payne’s first game back after he missed the previous 21 games with a foot injury. The same injury had cost him nine straight games previously before he made a brief, two-game cameo winding up back on the shelf. Payne was also one of the Suns to speak out in support of Bridges after the trade.

“Shock, heart-drop type of feeling,” Payne said per Kellan Olson of Empire Of The Suns. “But I know how it is, he’s perfectly fine. I guarantee you that.“

Bridges has acclimated himself quite well to his new surroundings, even expressing just how high he is on the new-look Nets roster that he admits is still trying to grow together as they figure each other out.

“I just believe in this team a lot, “Bridges told Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. “And that’s why me and [Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn] was talking, we’re talking in practice – and the team talking – because I think this team could do really good. And we have the players, we have the coaches, we have the mindset. So, just trying to lead. And, I know, just trying to do whatever it takes. And try to see what our best offense can be, our best defense can be.”

Vaughn has been equally as impressed.

“Mikal Bridges is open-minded but at the same time has a consciousness about him that he can communicate with his teammates,” Vaughn said. “Extremely pleased that he’s a part of our future going forward.”

Nets Expected to Get Offers for Mikal Bridges

This summer will come with several key decisions for the Nets. While there has been plenty of talk about the Memphis Grizzlies’ offer for the 2022 Defensive Player of the Year runner-up, not as much has been made of the report that they are expected to make another run at him this coming offseason.

Bridges is on a team-friendly four-year, $90 million deal given that he is still just 26 years old and trending up showing flashes of an even higher ceiling on offense than some might have previously believed.

The Nets will have some decisions to make at that time with Cameron Johnson also seeking a new deal in addition to several other, more-veteran players including Spencer Dinwiddie and Dorian Finney-Smith.

Will they look to cash in their draft capital and go star hunting again? Or will they use those picks to restock the roster with even more young talent and continue a rebuild more organically? For what it is worth, they have twice used the latter as a path to the former despite having greater team success with less star-driven groups such as the 2019 and 2020 squads.

Nets Potential Problem Children?

The Nets have an interesting situation on their bench with both Ben Simmons and Cam Thomas losing playing time after the trade deadline. Simmons is a three-time All-Star on a hefty contract he has not lived up to in Brooklyn who might also be fighting some mental demons on the court.

Thomas is just in his second season but has already shown tremendous potential as a scorer on a team that needs offense without its most recent superstar duo.

Vaughn has essentially drawn the line in the sand with both players.

“I’ll continue to reiterate how important he is to our group,” Vaughn said via Alex Schiffer of The Athletic during a teleconference with media on February 22. “But we don’t anticipate him playing 40 minutes as he did in those games…At the end of the day, it’s about the entire group, and I’m gonna continue to push that culture more than anything else.”

That is not nearly as bleak as Simmons’ outlook.

“It’s going to be some work that we have to do,” said Vaughn via the team’s official YouTube channel. “You just take a look at what the lineups could potentially look like…You see the challenges that lie ahead”

Neither player has been particularly pleased with the development of their roles but both have said they understand Vaughn is going to experiment with the roster.

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