The Phoenix Suns announced that guard Chris Paul has been placed in COVID-19 health and safety protocols ahead of the Western Conference finals. The next update on his status won't be given until Saturday, June 19, according to the team. The Suns are currently awaiting for their opponent to be decided between the winner of the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz series.
The amount of time that Paul could be out is dependent on several circumstances, like if a player is already vaccinated. If the Jazz and Clippers series go to seven games, it will be played on Sunday, likely pushing the start of the Western Conference finals to the start of next week.
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Paul has been instrumental in the Suns' turnaround season and their success in the postseason thus far. He finished fifth in MVP voting, and is averaging 15.7 points, 8.7 assists and 4.1 rebounds a game this postseason. The 36-year-old has the Suns in the conference finals for the first time in more than a decade as they sit four wins away from reaching the NBA Finals for the first time since 1993.
Not having Paul would be a significant blow to Phoenix, and an unfortunate circumstance for the league, which always knew this was a possibility while playing during a pandemic. During the regular season, the NBA postponed 31 games due to players needing to enter isolation because of COVID-19. The Suns were one of the few teams in the league who didn't see a significant COVID-19 outbreak on its roster, as several teams across the league were unable to play in games because they didn't have the required number of players needed to take the court. So far, the league hasn't had to entertain the thought of postponing playoff games, or seen a game where a player was in isolation, and for three straight weeks there hadn't been a player who tested positive for the virus, as of June 9.
The nature of Paul's situation is unknown at this time, as it's unclear if he himself has tested positive, or if he's come into contact with an infected person. It's also not known if he's come into contact with other teammates or staff members within the Suns organization, as that could also have an impact on who will be available at the start of the conference finals as well. Phoenix will likely conduct contact tracing to determine if anyone else needs to enter isolation.