The Western Conference Finals could start as soon as Sunday, and the Phoenix Suns could be without Chris Paul for the start of that series now.
Paul is out indefinitely as he has entered the NBA’s COVID/coronavirus health and safety protocols, a story broken by Shams Charania of The Athletic, and since confirmed by the Suns themselves. Phoenix said CP3 is “currently out” and would update his status Saturday.
Here are the big questions and what we know.
• Did Paul test positive for COVID, or was he just exposed to someone who tested positive? The well-connected John Gambadoro of 98.7 FM Sports Talk Radio in Phoenix says he did have a positive test. The Suns are not allowed to answer that question because of player privacy/HIPPA.
• Did Paul get vaccinated? He has not answered that question, saying it is a private matter, but Gambadoro reports he heard he did. The league is allowing vaccinated players to return more quickly (it’s 10-14 days if not). Either way, Paul will need two negative tests 24 hours apart before he can return to being around the team and on the court.
• When will the Western Conference Finals start/how much time with Paul miss? If the Clippers or Jazz end their series in six games (Friday night at Staples Center), the league’s plans call for Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals to start at 3:30 Eastern on Sunday. If the Jazz and Clippers go to Game 7, that will be played Sunday and there is no announced date yet for the start of the Conference Finals.
The one thing we do know: This is terrible luck for the Suns.
Paul made the All-NBA Second Team and is averaging 15.7 points and 8.7 rebounds a game for the Suns these playoffs, but the counting stats do not do justice to his impact on the team. The Suns have been +5.1 per 100 possessions when he has been on the court this season.
A better indication of Paul’s importance was how much the Suns struggled against the Lakers in the first round when Paul’s shoulder injury limited him on the court. The Suns lost two games to the Lakers, but once CP3 got healthy the series turned.
Either the Jazz or Clippers would present a nearly impossible challenge without Paul. Even if he just misses the first couple of games, it may put the Suns in too deep a hole to climb out of.
Except we don’t know yet how much, if any, time Paul will miss, although it seems he could be out at least part of the next round. There are a lot of questions, not a lot of answers at this point.