Chris Paul is ready for his return.
The 36-year-old point guard did not play in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals on Sunday due to the league’s health and safety protocols after reportedly testing positive for COVID-19. According to Yahoo Sports, Paul has been symptom-free and the Suns hope he can return “early” in the series after Phoenix took Game 1 from the Clippers on Sunday.
Following the Suns’ win, Deandre Ayton and Devin Booker FaceTimed Paul and they discussed elements of the game.
“We put him on FaceTime. He’s our leader. We lean on him for a lot,” Booker said to reporters following the game. “We know how disappointed he is and frustrated he is he couldn’t be out here for Game 1 of the Western Conference finals, especially knowing his past history around this time. But we had him all the way through. We brought him in the locker room, had him in our after-game huddle. He’s proud of us. He’s ready to get back, he’s working and we can’t wait to have him.”
In Paul’s absence, Booker has had to take an aggressive offensive stance on the court, and in Game 1, his performance was superb. While Booker’s dominance did not fully emerge until the third quarter, he finished with 40 points on 15-for-29 shooting, 13 rebounds, and 11 assists to bring Phoenix to a 120-114 win over the Clippers.
While the series is now 1-0 in the Suns’ favor, there were moments the team wanted Paul on the court, particularly when the clock was running low. Crunch time is where he thrives.
“We definitely miss him. The last three minutes of that game, that’s when we felt like, ‘Where the hell Chris at?’” forward Jae Crowder said. “That’s the point when he’s that guy. He’s that guy to make that play for everybody, the guy to put us in position.”
In the interim, however, Booker has proven to be more than enough. His performance on Sunday marked the sixth time a player has recorded multiple 40-point games in their first career playoffs. In addition, he is the first Suns player since Steve Nash to record a triple-double in the postseason.
“I think I’ve come close a few times in my career but never gotten over the hump,” Booker said about his triple-double. “But I’ll take it now.”
Paul’s return date is still unknown, according to Suns coach Monty Williams. Most likely, an update will come on Monday about whether Paul can play in Tuesday’s Game 2.
“As far as Chris is concerned, it’s just a day-to-day thing with him right now,” Williams said. “I probably drive the people here in town crazy with that, but that’s the way it is. We’re hopeful that any day now we hear that he can ramp up and get back with us, but right now he’s in the protocols.”