Early this morning it was reported that Suns PG Chris Paul may have to miss games in the Western Conference Finals due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols, what does this mean for Phoenix?
According to Shams Charania of The Athletic Phoenix Suns point guard Chris Paul, a.k.a. CP3, has entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols as of early this morning and is currently sidelined “indefinitely”, meaning his availability in the Suns’ first Western Conference Finals appearance in 11 years is up in the air.
This postseason Paul has averaged 15.7 points, 8.7 assists, and over four rebounds per game in the Suns’ two playoff series, but set aside CP3’s statistics, and it is clear that his leadership and 16-seasons worth of experience are simply irreplaceable to this young NBA team.
The good news? The Suns’ next opponent (the winner of the LA Clippers–Utah Jazz matchup) is at least four days away from facing them, and that’s if either team decides to win the next two games straight. If the two teams split tonight’s Game Five and Friday’s Game Six then Paul and the Suns could be watching Game Seven Sunday night and be prepared to play them Tuesday (at the earliest).
According to the NBA’s health and safety protocols, Paul’s road to return is split into two routes:
- 1) Go 10 days or more after the first positive test or onset of symptoms (this would cause Paul to miss at least the first three games, probably more) or…
- 2) test negative twice at least 24 hours apart via polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test
(Note: if Paul is vaccinated then an isolation period could be shorter depending on the medical circumstances)
So what should the Suns do to prepare for the likelihood of Paul missing the first game or two?
The first thing they should do is NOT PANIC. This team has elite scorers across the board–all of which could go off for 25+ points any night–and they have shown that they can all shoot well throughout their most recent series sweep of the Nuggets when the starting five all averaged double-digits.
Not to mention Phoenix still has All-Star Devin Booker who has had 30+ points in half of the team’s ten playoff games and has shown he is a prolific shooter even without Paul on the team, like when he scored 70 points in one game (7th-highest in NBA history) back in 2017.
The second thing they need to do is look to the other veteran on the team, Jae Crowder, who has been to the Conference Finals twice before and was in the Finals last year as a member of the Miami Heat.
Now granted, Crowder is not nearly the type of leader that Paul has shown he is. But, when the game is getting dicey and CP3 is not on the court to slow things down, Crowder tends to keep the game controlled from the three-point line and is big enough (6’6″, 235 lbs) to get inside and get rebounds (currently he’s averaging 5.1 rebs/gm this postseason).
If Booker and Crowder can combine their efforts to lead the floor with Cameron Payne, the Suns’ backup PG who must take over for Paul, then they can most likely do enough damage control to keep the series even (at least) by the time CP3 can return.