The Phoenix Suns preseason begins in four days and the regular season begins in 15 days. In the absence of the Suns providing availability/injury reports until the weekend, we have to use our powers of deduction to see who is healthy and participating in training camp.
Training camp is both very important and not very important. The camp itself is important on the whole to impart the new offensive and defensive schemes to the group and to walk through and then scrimmage with those schemes in mind. But it’s not that important to a single individual player who misses camp because they can pick up the schemes later from both coaches and players.
Seven of the top eight rotation players from the Bubble are back with the same coaching staff who got them to a 8-0 record, and that eighth player was upgraded to All-NBA Chris Paul. They’ve got a great foundation in place for a strong start to the season.
Yet, the Suns potential won’t be completely unlocked unless all their players are healthy and available to play.
COVID-19 will be a constant issue into the spring or summer, until and unless an effective vaccine is made available and administered safely to all NBA players. The key words there are ‘effective’ ‘available’ ‘safely’ and ‘all’. And this assumes the vaccine itself doesn’t knock you out of playing important games, if administered during the season. For example, if the vaccine tends to make the recipient sick for a number of days, you can’t give it to all players on a team at once or you might have to forfeit your next game!
In short, there’s a lot we don’t know.
What we do know (in part) is the following:
- the NBA will not stop league play based on isolated cases of COVID among players
- each team will play as long as they have enough available players (8 players must be dressed and ready to play at the start of the game)
- however, the NBA is using close contact tracing, so a player coming down with COVID could potentially cause teammates to be quarantined as well if they broke off-court protocols and unnecessarily exposed their teammates*
- the NBA will exact heavy fines to teams for every violation of protocols
*Note the Denver Broncos in the NFL. They had to quarantine their entire quarterback pool a week ago because the group declined to wear masks for long periods in closed-air quarters with a COVID-positive teammate.
All this means that COVID is a danger to the effectiveness of a team. Players will constantly take tests and be isolated as early as possible to avoid spreading the virus.
Last week, the NBA as a league reported that almost 10% of the player pool (48 of 500+) tested positive upon preparing for training camp and are now being isolated before group practices began. Hopefully, that number will go down dramatically as the players and teams start following rigorous safety and prevention protocols.
We have wondered if any Suns players tested positive among those 48?
So far, all we know is that Monty Williams declined comment on Jae Crowder last night after practice — the NBA’s modus operandi on COVID-positive players in the interest of personal privacy for the player — and a recent release of practice footage shows the notable absence of Crowder.
Here’s some practice footage, showing all but Crowder working out on the court.
In order of appearance (foreground): Jalen Smith, Langston Galloway, Abdel Nader, E’Twaun Moore, Jevon Carter, Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson, Chris Paul, Damian Jones, Devin Booker, Cameron Payne, and two-way rookie Ty-Shon Alexander.
That’s 14 players. More than enough for scrimmaging and games. This is a really good sign, by the way. For reference, when the Bubble started in early July with training camp the Suns did not have enough players to even play four on four for more than a week after they were allowed to — that’s why they signed Cam Payne from off the street — but were healthy enough by scrimmages/preseason and then went 8-0 in real games.
No Suns availability today, but here’s the interviews after last night’s scrimmage in case you missed them: Chris Paul, Monty and (for the first time) Abdel Nader.