Since he entered the league as the 14th pick of the 2015 National Basketball Association Draft, things haven't gone perfectly for Cameron Payne.
The former Murray State Racer point guard - one of the better two-year players in school history - has had his moments of brightness, but more often than not has been subject to rigorous ridicule at his three professional stops: the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Chicago Bulls and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Drafted by then-rookie NBA coach Billy Donovan in '15, Payne's tenure at OKC was better than advertised … though he's mostly remembered as All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook's backup and famed pre-game dance partner. In 77 games with the Thunder, he averaged 5.1 points, 1.9 assists and 1.5 rebounds - shooting 38.5% from the field and 82.1% from the stripe along the way.
But no sooner had he made an appearance in Westbrook's Mountain Dew commercial was the Memphis, Tennessee, native on the move at the NBA trade deadline … part of a now heavily excoriated deal that sent Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott from Chicago in exchange for Payne, Joffrey Lauvergne and Anthony Morrow.
In two-and-a-half seasons with the Bulls, Payne appeared in 67 games with 26 starts - averaging 6.7 points, 3.1 assists and 2.1 rebounds in close to 19 minutes of action, shooting 39.7% from the field, 33.7% from the arc and 77.8% from the line.
But more importantly, Payne never got comfortable in a lineup, or with his health.
On Jan. 3, 2019, the lottery pick was let go by the Bulls, who had also released former head coach Fred Hoiberg from his lead duties a month prior.
Payne would land with the Cavaliers in back-to-back 10-day contracts, where in nine games and one start he'd average career highs in points (8.2), field-goal percentage (49.1%) and 3-point percentage (36.0%), but wouldn't earn a contract to complete the season with the team.
But league aspirations don't fade so easily.
Payne is getting a fresh opportunity, and beginning this afternoon will suit up with the Dallas Mavericks' NBA Summer League team in Las Vegas as the most seasoned veteran on the squad.
"I've been banged up three of the four years, and then kind of was just in a bad situation, and I ended up with the Bulls and they let me go," Payne told Mavs.com reporter Dwain Price earlier this week. "I feel like it's all just an opportunity at the end of the day."
The Mavs certainly have a plethora of weapons - beginning with second-year phenom and point-forward Luka Doncic, former New York Knicks All-Star power forward Kristaps Porzingis, former Western Kentucky University star shooting guard Courtney Lee and former Michigan standout Tim Hardaway Jr. They've re-signed center Dwight Powell, signed ace shooter Seth Curry, added ruthless center Boban Marjanovic and tote a wide spectrum of point guards in Trey Burke, Jalen Brunson, JJ Barea and Devin Harris - the latter two being 35 and 36 years old, respectively.
But Payne, who's played in more than 150 NBA games since 2015, is just looking for one opportunity - one chance to get back and prove he belongs.
"Obviously, that's great," Payne told Price when talking about possibly making the final roster. "But right now my focus is on this team we've got right here (in Vegas). It would be a blessing. That's why I'm working hard and working toward, so I hope it happens."