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Suns get COVID for Christmas: Crowder, Payton OUT

Two Phoenix Suns players are out with COVID.

Golden State Warriors v Phoenix Suns Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

According to Adrian Wojnarowski today via tweet, the Phoenix Suns are starting to pick up that nasty virus like most of the rest of the NBA.

Suns forward Jae Crowder and backup-backup point guard Elfrid Payton have both entered the league’s ‘heath and safety protocols’ as of this afternoon, which means that the players most likely tested positive for COVID-19.

No other Suns players have been mentioned, despite all of them being breathed on heavily by Crowder, Payton and the Warriors’ Draymond Green during yesterday’s game. Today, Green was also placed in protocols.

This year, the only players held out due to contact tracing are un-vaccinated players. Players who are vaccinated and continue to test negative for COVID are allowed to keep playing with the team while undergoing daily testing for a week. Though the Suns have not made any public statements officially, every Suns player including Elfrid Payton* reported on Media Day that they were vaccinated and none of the Suns had to sit out games in New York** this month.

*Payton specifically mentioned his dislike for the vaccine mandate imposed by the NBA, but admitted he had begun the vaccination process as of Media Day.

**New York City has a vaccine mandate for any public gathering, including sporting events (you know, the whole Kyrie thing), and the Suns just recently played in New York with both players active and dressed.

For now, the Suns will have to go on without Jae and Elf for at least a week, maybe two, and hopefully without any long-lasting effects.

However, with daily testing in place for the rest of the team now, we could see more positives in the coming days. Sometimes the positive test lags well behind the exposure, which happened all over the place on Christmas Day.

Across the NBA, more than 100 players are or were recently out with COVID-positive results, though many are experiencing no symptoms. The Omicron variant is more contagious than ever but less impactful, especially to those who are vaccinated.

Reminder: vaccination does not prevent a person from getting COVID. The versions out now dramatically reduce the impacts of the virus, once you have it.

I’m not a doctor, and certainly not trained in this stuff, so I won’t make any other comments on this whole business. Peoples’ opinions are all across the gamut and being spouted as fact while almost none of them are 100% correct.

Recently, the NFL decided to allow vaccinated players to keep playing even if they test positive, as long as they don’t present any symptoms. Maybe the NBA will adopt that plan some day, but for now the NBA holds out players until they test negative twice in a row, at least 24 hours apart.

What happens now?

The games will go on. The NBA won’t cancel or postpone any games unless complete disaster strikes, and the implemented rules last week to mitigate disaster.

Now, the Suns are required to sign at least ONE replacement player on at least a 10-day contract while Jae and Elfrid are out.

I say ‘at least’ because the Suns do have an open roster spot and half their midlevel exception (about $4.5 million) left for a quality player. However, none of those are around and available to be signed these days. Already, 100+ players from around the world have signed on with other teams in the last three weeks.

If more Suns go down, more replacements will be signed. If another player tests positive, making it three Suns at a time, the Suns will be required to sign a second replacement player. This replacement game continues as long as needed, making it so NBA teams will always have enough players on hand to play the scheduled game.

Next Game

The Suns (26-6) host the Memphis Grizzlies (19-14) on Monday night.

The Grizz just reported the loss of Dillon Brooks to health and safety protocols. He joins Jarrett Culver, De’Anthony Melton and a pair of deep bench players in the protocols for the Grizzlies.