Playoffs 2021

Chris Paul: Phoenix Suns guard still in health and safety protocols just ahead of Western Conference Finals Game 1

Phoenix Suns All-Star guard Chris Paul entered the NBA's health and safety protocols, leaving his status unclear whether he'll be available for the first few games of the Western Conference Finals.

The team announced on Saturday (ET), just shy of 24 hours before tip-off of Game 1 against the LA Clippers, that Paul is still in health and safety protocols and "further updates on his status will be provided as appropriate."

The Athletic first reported that Paul was entering the protocols on Wednesday, June 16th. With the Conference Finals set to begin on Sunday, June 20th, that marks just four days that the floor general has spent in the league's protocols.

SERIES PREVIEW: Suns vs. Clippers Western Conference Finals

The protocols are the league's playbook for handling all matters related to the coronavirus this season. There have been examples of players missing multiple weeks following positive COVID-19 tests; there have also been examples of players missing very short amounts of time for matters such as contact tracing investigations.

In March, the league also relaxed some of the protocols that were put into place last fall, doing so in response to players and coaches choosing to receive the vaccine that protects against the coronavirus.

But the league also cautioned at that time that "if an individual has symptoms consistent with COVID-19, the previous protocols apply" - which would still mean that anyone with those symptoms "may be subject to quarantine" regardless of their vaccination status.

Paul scored 37 points in Game 4 of the West semifinals against Denver, helping Phoenix finish off a four-game sweep. He has only played in the Western Conference Finals once in his career, doing so in 2018 with the Houston Rockets against the Golden State State. The Rockets held a 3-2 lead in that series when Paul injured a hamstring and had to miss Games 6 and 7; the Rockets lost both games and the Warriors went on to win the NBA title.

He is averaging 15.7 points and 8.7 assists per game in these playoffs, shooting 51% from the field, 44% from 3-point range and 91% from the foul line.

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