Payne scored seven points (3-9 FG, 1-5 3PT) to go with two rebounds and seven assists in 20 minutes during Thursday's 116-115 loss to Philadelphia.
Aside from his seven points, Payne did dish out seven assists in his 20 minute, season debut on Thursday. As Chicago makes lineup changes, the guard could see a good amount of playing time as the season winds to a close. For Payne, any increase in playing time would be a jump after averaging 13.3 minutes in 2-plus seasons in the league. As a result of Payne's extended playing time, Jerian Grant's minutes will likely diminish.
Payne (foot) has been cleared to make his debut during Thursday's game against the 76ers, Madeline Kenney of the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
Payne underwent surgery on his right foot back in September, but appears finally healthy and ready to make his season debut Thursday following three successful outings in the G-League. The Bulls announced earlier this week that Payne is expected to serve as Kris Dunn's backup at point guard, with Jerian Grant being dropped from the rotation altogether. Payne likely isn't going to provide intriguing fantasy value as a backup and he'll need some time to get back into game shape, so he can safely be avoided for the time being.
Payne is yet to play an NBA game this season while working back from foot surgery, but he completed a three-game stint with the Windy City Bulls before the All-Star break and is expected to be available in short order. It's unclear if Payne will be cleared for Thursday's matchup with the Sixers, but all signs point to him taking over as the backup to Kris Dunn sometime in the next week or two. Consequently, coach Fred Hoiberg announced Tuesday that Jerian Grant will not be a part of the regular rotation. The Bulls will also start Cristiano Felicio over Robin Lopez going forward, as the team shifts its focus toward draft positioning.
The Bulls recalled Payne on Tuesday following a three-game stint with G League Windy City, during which the third-year point guard averaged 21.0 points, 4.0 assists and 4.0 rebounds. Those strong numbers suggest that he's no longer feeling the effects of the foot surgery that he required in August that has sidelined him all season, but the Bulls evidently want to have Payne put in a few more practices before making his season debut following the All-Star break. Supporting what Bulls vice president of basketball operations John Paxson said last week, Hoiberg noted that Payne will be in the rotation after the break, but it's hard to project the 23-year-old seeing significant run behind starting point guard Kris Dunn and top backup Jerian Grant.
Payne played in three games for the Windy City Bulls over the past week, averaging 21.0 points, 4.0 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 1.7 steals in just under 24 minutes per contest. The 23-year-old guard is expected to re-join the Bulls rotation after the All-Star break, where he will compete with Jerian Grant and Ryan Arcidiacono for minutes off the bench behind Kris Dunn (concussion).
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