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Thumbs Up: Chris Paul nearing return to Phoenix Suns

Phoenix Suns point guard Chris Paul’s right thumb is free to breathe and move

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Phoenix Suns v Sacramento Kings Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

“Oh we do need that,” Phoenix Suns shooting guard Devin Booker said of getting Chris Paul back, “Especially when it comes down to the come down.”

The Phoenix Suns can get through the regular season just fine without Chris Paul leading the charge, thanks in part to the huge lead he helped them stake before the All-Star break, but by playoff time everyone knows they need their fringe MVP point guard back at the helm to reach their ultimate goal of winning a championship.

Paul went down in the second half of their final pre-All-Star game with an avulsion fracture in his thumb, an injury that generally takes 6-8 weeks to heal. That puts a return just before the playoffs begin.

Word is, though, that Paul could return much sooner. On Sunday in Sacramento, we saw Paul cheering from the sidelines without his thumb brace, and using his right hand freely to clap and slap teammates in celebration of their gritty win over the Kings.

Sam Amick of The Athletic reports that Paul could return as soon as this Wednesday, in Minnesota. That might be overly aggressive, but anyone who knows Paul knows that it’s his nature to return as soon as possible.

Yet, the Suns don’t really NEED to step up his return this early, with three weeks left in the regular season.

They are now 10-4 without Paul with an average margin of +9.8 points per game, including blowout wins over two of the best teams in the East, the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls.

Their lead over the second-place team in the West is 9 games with just 10 to play — meaning they will sew up the top playoff seed within a couple of days no matter whether Paul returns or not.

Thanks to that 10-4 record, the Suns lead in the West has actually increased since Paul got injured — from a 7.5 game lead to 9 games as of this morning.

“We know how talented this team is,” Booker said. “We always pride ourself on that. I always say nobody can replace what Chris does out there. We know how much we’re going to need him when it comes to this playoff run. In the meantime, we’re just trying to hold it down. Cam Payne is stepping up big, everyone is attacking.”

Watch out for Chris Paul making his return before the end of March, just as friend-of-the-blog Flex from Jersey has been saying all along. Here’s what he shared a week ago.

Right now, the Suns are down Chris Paul (thumb), Cameron Payne (non-COVID illness), Jae Crowder (groin before, then ankle on Sunday) and Cameron Johnson (thigh bruise/charley horse) from the regular rotation. All are short-term issues that the Suns will undoubtedly treat very carefully so that they are healthy in mid-April when the playoffs start.

Phoenix is currently on a 5-game win streak, holding a league-best 58-14 record. With 10 games to go, they are just two wins shy of clinching the top playoff seed, and five wins shy of setting a 54-year franchise record for wins in a season (currently 62).

The Suns can reach both goals with or without Paul, but I’d guess — as long as he’s healthy — a self-proclaimed ‘sicko’ would much rather be on the floor when those goals are reached than just dancing on the sideline.

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