A person with knowledge of the situation said Wednesday that Phoenix guard Chris Paul
has entered the NBA
and safety protocols and that it is unclear whether he will be available for the start of the Western Conference finals next week.
The Suns are unsure how long Paul will be away from the team, according to a person who spoke to The Associated Press
on the condition of anonymity because neither the player nor the team has made any public statements, and it is unclear whether Paul has been vaccinated.
Paul's entrance into the protocols was first reported by The Athletic.
The West finals could begin as early as Sunday, depending on how long the other West semifinal series between Utah
and the Los Angeles
Clippers lasts; if the Jazz-Clippers matchup ends Friday, Game 1 between the winner of that series and the Suns will be Sunday afternoon.
Otherwise, Game 1 of the Western series is expected to begin on Tuesday.
The protocols are the league's playbook for dealing with all coronavirus-related issues this season; there have been instances of players missing multiple weeks following positive COVID-19
tests, as well as instances of players missing very short periods of time for issues such as contact tracing investigations.
The league also relaxed some of the protocols put in place last fall in response to players and coaches opting to receive the coronavirus vaccine
However, the league also warned at the time that “if an individual has symptoms consistent with COVID-19, the previous protocols apply,” which means that anyone with those symptoms “may be subject to quarantine” regardless of vaccination
Paul scored 37 points in Game 4 of the West semifinals against Denver
, helping Phoenix complete a four-game sweep. He has only played in the West finals once in his career, with Houston
against Golden State in 2018. The Rockets were up 3-2 in that series when Paul injured his hamstring and had to miss Games 6 and 7; Houston lost both, and the Warriors won the NBA title.
In these playoffs, he's averaging 15.7 points and 8.7 assists per game, shooting
51% from the field, 44% from 3-point range, and 91% from the foul line.