The defending Western Conference champion Phoenix Suns will be without star guard Devin Booker when training camp opens early next week. He is currently in the health and safety protocols, the team announced on Sunday. Later on, Booker confirmed on his Twitch channel that he has tested positive for COVID-19. He said that he feels well but has no sense of taste or smell.
Booker will also not be able to participate in media day, which is set for Monday. At this point, it's unclear when Booker will be able to rejoin the team. Looking ahead, their first preseason game is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 4, against the Sacramento Kings, while opening night for the regular season is Wednesday, Oct. 20, against the Denver Nuggets. Booker noted that he tested positive a week ago, so based on that timeline it's possible he'll miss one or more preseason contests. However, he should be back well before the regular season begins.
Though the NBA had hoped to return to normal this season, the continued presence of COVID-19 means that won't be possible. Heading into training camp, 90 percent of players are fully vaccinated, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. Convincing the remaining players to get vaccinated has been a challenge for the league. It's not known whether Booker has the vaccine or not.
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To this point, the league has not implemented a vaccine mandate, and a recent report from Rolling Stone suggests that is a non-starter for the players. However, the league is abiding by local health regulations, which means that players in certain cities -- New York and San Francisco, for example -- will need to be vaccinated in order to play in home games. Andrew Wiggins and Kyrie Irving are two high-profile players who might be affected by those rules.
It's not clear how all of this will play out as the season goes along, but the Booker situation is a reminder that COVID-19 is still going to have an impact.