Skip to main content

Sam Mitchell on how Penny Hardaway saved Cameron Payne's NBA career

Cameron-Payne-Penny-Hardaway-min

University of Memphis coach Penny Hardaway has emerged as a serious candidate for the Orlando Magic head coaching job. The Athletic's Shams Charania singled out his player development skills as perhaps the biggest reason why, and Sam Mitchell has the story to back it up.

Mitchell, the NBA Coach of the Year in '07, worked as Penny's assistant in Memphis and saw firsthand how gifted the retired 4x All-Star is in developing young talent. But even he was in awe of what Penny did with Cameron Payne, resurrecting his NBA career after years of wandering around.

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.

Sam Mitchell, Pure Hoops Media

"That first two and a half weeks all Penny did was sat the ball down and run him," Mitchell said. "I mean he ran him into the ground. Penny would do it because he wanted to see if Cameron was gonna come back. Every day at the same time, around 11:30, Cameron walked in the gym, and every day for two and a half weeks, for two hours, Penny ran him to the ground."

It wasn't until weeks later Penny started doing basketball stuff with Payne. Fast forward to today, the upstroke is this -- the 26-year-old point guard is playing the best basketball of his career, averaging 10.6 points and 3.6 assists in the Playoffs for the Suns, one game away from making the NBA Finals.

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

Payne turned himself from a partially-guaranteed contract guy to one of the best backup point guards in the entire NBA, imposing himself as one of the most surprising breakout players in this year's postseason. But Sam Mitchell isn't surprised by it at all.

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; how thankful and grateful he is to Monty and James for giving him this chance.

Sam Mitchell, Pure Hoops Media

Payne will hit free agency this summer, looking to cash in on his improvement as one of the biggest under-the-radar players on the market. There's no doubt teams will be competing for his services, but according to Mitchell, Cameron's best bet is to stay in Phoenix under Chris Paul's mentorship before it's his time to take over the starting point guard spot.

If you look at their future, they bring back Cameron Payne with Chris - now you already got Chris' backup - when Chris slows down or walks away, Cameron Payne is ready to step right in and keep this train rolling. So I saw this with my own eyes every day. He's earned everything that he's getting right now.

Sam Mitchell, Pure Hoops Media

Cameron Payne is one of the NBA's best stories this season. For that reason alone, Penny Hardaway deserves to be the next one. He's the one who made it happen. He deserves the chance to do the same thing with Markelle Fultz. So Orlando, make it happen!

Want to stay up to date with the latest news and reactions?Download our NBA news feed for breaking news, live stats, and game coverage.

Ryan Blackburn on the Los Angeles Lakers - “Somehow, they’re going to get out of the Russell Westbrook contract for an All-Star talent”

NBA analyst Ryan Blackburn blasts the Los Angeles Lakers - “Somehow, they’re going to get out of the Russell Westbrook contract"

Blackburn says that despite the Lakers throwing away tons of draft picks and cap space, they are about to land one of the top guards in the game for in return for one of the worst contracts in the league

Milwaukee Bucks guard Oscar Robertson and Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant

Oscar Robertson claims he could beat Kobe Bryant 1-on-1 — “I taught him basketball!”

Oscar Robertson thinks he could beat Kobe Bryant one-on-one. Here's why I think he's wrong.

Too Short believes Jay Z's remake of 'Blow The Whistle' was more than just a diss song: 'I think he was thinking about signing LeBron'

Too Short believes Jay-Z's remake of 'Blow The Whistle' was more than just a diss song: 'I think he was thinking about signing LeBron'

In 2008, Jay Z did a remake of Too Short's "Blow the Whistle" as a response to DeShawn Stevenson's "overrated" dig at LeBron James. The message was on point but Too Short thinks it was more than just a diss song

Dwyane Wade on Kobe Bryant's rap skills: 'Sounded like Stephen A. Smith would rap'

Dwyane Wade on Kobe Bryant's rap skills: 'Sounded like Stephen A. Smith would rap'

Whenever Dwyane Wade hears Kobe Bryant rap, he also think about Stephen A. Smith.

Bill Simmons on the Rudy Gobert trade - “Gonna spend the next 48 hours…wondering if Minnesota just made the most inexplicable NBA overpay trade of all time”

Bill Simmons blasts the Rudy Gobert trade: "Minnesota just made the most inexplicable NBA overpay trade of all time"

Bill Simmons said he believes this may be one of the most inexplicable overpays in NBA history, and chances are, he is right

Instagram model Yasmine Lopez confirms she dated Carmelo Anthony: 'I was literally sitting next to him in the bed'

Instagram model Yasmine Lopez confirms she dated Carmelo Anthony: 'I was literally sitting next to him in the bed'

Carmelo Anthony's marriage with LaLa fell apart primarily due to his alleged unfaithfulness. Years after their divorce, one of Melo's rumored side chicks opened up.