Phoenix guard Chris Paul has entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols, the Suns said Wednesday, and it is unclear whether he’ll be available for the start of the Western Conference finals next week.
The Suns said Paul’s status will be evaluated again Saturday. The earliest possible start date for the West finals is Sunday; that series schedule is contingent on when the other West semifinal between the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers ends.
Paul has been vaccinated against COVID-19, said a person with knowledge of the situation, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of privacy concerns. And that may mean that Paul could be cleared to return more quickly than some who tested positive earlier this season before vaccines were readily available; it wasn’t uncommon for players who entered the protocols to miss two weeks or more.
“My faith isn’t going to waver now because we’ve had a few obstacles,” Suns coach Monty Williams said Wednesday. “We’ve had obstacles all season long and gotten through a lot of stuff. You look forward to these challenges, you embrace them and you move forward.”
Phoenix practiced on Tuesday and Wednesday without Paul, starting the process of getting ready for a West finals berth now accompanied with even more uncertainty than first thought. The Suns don’t know who they’ll play, when they’ll play, where the series will start and now, aren’t sure if their 10-time All-NBA point guard will be ready.
Williams did not divulge anything specific about Paul’s health condition. All the team said was that Paul had entered the protocols.
The protocols are the league’s playbook for handling all matters related to the coronavirus this season. There have been examples of players missing multiple weeks following positive COVID-19 tests; there have also been examples of players missing very short amounts of time for matters such as contact tracing investigations.
But the NBA also cautioned at that time that “if an individual has symptoms consistent with COVID-19, the previous protocols apply” – which would still mean that anyone with those symptoms “may be subject to quarantine” regardless of their vaccination status.