The Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Clippers will each be without one of their most crucial players for the start of the Western Conference finals.
The Suns’ Chris Paul and the Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard have been ruled out for Sunday’s Game 1. Paul, 36, remains in the NBA’s health and safety protocols after reportedly testing positive for COVID-19. Paul, who according to multiple reports has been vaccinated, needs two negative COVID tests at least 24 hours apart to be cleared for a return.
Leonard has not played since Game 4 of the second round because of a knee injury, which the Clippers reportedly fear is an ACL issue. He didn’t travel with the team to Phoenix.
“Because of the climate that we live in, things change from day to day,” Suns head coach Monty Williams told reporters Saturday regarding Paul. “I’ve tried to take things one day at a time … but for me, based on the information and based on the history of this particular protocol, everything is day-to-day. And so that’s how I have to approach it. I wish I could tell you a time so you guys wouldn’t have to ask me all the time, but at this point I can’t. It’s pretty much day-to-day.”
Paul, an 11-time All-Star, averaged 16.4 points and 8.9 assists per game during the regular season. He dominated during Phoenix’s sweep of Denver in the second round, averaging 25.5 points, 10.3 assists and five rebounds in the four games while shooting 62.7 percent.
The rest from the sweep provides a silver lining for the Suns, who have not played since last Sunday. The Clippers finished off their six-game win over the Jazz on Friday.
Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said he’s “not sure” about Leonard’s status for Game 2. Leonard, 29, averaged 30.4 points and 7.7 rebounds over the first 11 games of the playoffs.