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Ayton, McGee, Crowder released from H/S protocols, will still miss Clippers game on TNT

Suns giving them time to get back in NBA game shape

Denver Nuggets v Phoenix Suns Photo by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

The Phoenix Suns will get three of their most important rotation players back soon, but not in time for the Suns-Clippers game on Thursday night.

All of starting center Deandre Ayton, backup center JaVale McGee and starting forward Jae Crowder have cleared COVID protocols, but will be given some time to get back into NBA game shape after suffering the effects of COVID, a respiratory virus.

The Suns are calling ‘return to competitive reconditioning’.

Since Jalen Smith and Bismack Biyombo have played so well the last two games, the Suns surely felt a little more comfortable giving the three veterans time to put COVID further into their rear view mirror.

In the last two games, the 21-year old Smith is averaging 15.5 points and 8.5 rebounds while Bismack Biymobo, just signed to a 10-day contract, has produced 13.5 points and 6 rebounds.

Together, they have combined for 29 points and 14.5 rebounds in an average of 43 minutes per game at the center position. That’s good enough for the Suns to have won both, by an average 23 points. The Suns overall went 3-2 since Ayton went down, 2-1 since both have been out. The competition, I should note, has been light.

The usual center combo of Ayton and McGee combine for 27.5 points and 18.5 rebounds in an average of 47 minutes per game. That was good enough to help the Suns amass a 26-6 record with the league’s 9th best offense and 2nd best defense.

Nice depth when you can get it!

Expect the Jalen/Bismack combo to share the court again on Thursday against the Clippers front line of Ivica Zubac and Serge Ibaka.

Now to Jae Crowder, who also cleared protocols and will return sometime after the Clippers game.

In his place, Cameron Johnson done very well in the starting spot — as the team’s second leading scorer with 16.5 points per game on 52% shooting at 48% on threes.

Where the team has taken a terrible hit is the bench. Without Cameron Johnson coming in off the bench, Cameron Payne, Landry Shamet, Elfrid Payton and Ish Wainright have gotten more minutes and not done much with them. Now Shamet is out with COVID too, and Abdel Nader remains out with a knee issue (and now COVID too). The Suns signed 5-year vet small forward Justin Jackson to a 10-day contract to help fill the void — he looks like Cam with the big hair, but shoots more like Josh Jackson than Cam.

Like the former two, Crowder will continue to miss time until he gets back into game shape, sometime after the Clippers game.