NBA Star Chris Paul Sidelined by COVID During Playoffs Chris Paul #3 of the Phoenix Suns directs the offense in the first half in Game Three of the Western Conference second-round playoff series at Ball Arena on June 11, 2021, in Denver, Colorado. (Bradford/Getty Images)
By Charlie McCarthy | Wednesday, 16 June 2021 11:16 AM
The NBA's concern that players could be sidelined due to the coronavirus during league playoffs in a non-bubble environment proved valid, as Phoenix Suns star Chris Paul has entered the league's COVID-19 health and safety protocol.
The Athletic's Shams Charania tweeted Wednesday morning that Paul will be sidelined indefinitely after helping the Suns advance to the Western Conference Finals. Phoenix awaits the winner of the series between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz.
Entering the protocols doesn't mean Paul tested positive for COVID-19. He might have been in close contact with someone who tested positive. Charania tweeted that depending "on the medical circumstance, an isolation period could be shorter for a vaccinated individual."
The NBA conducted last year's playoffs in a restricted-access bubble environment at Walt Disney World near Orlando, Florida.
From last December to February, 31 regular-season games were postponed when teams could not meet the minimum requirement of eight players in uniform because of positive tests or contact tracing, as well as injuries, The New York Times reported.
Although no games were canceled March to May, the NBA knew the playoffs remained a challenge.
"We knew it was going to be a challenge to get through all of the games in a way that we thought kept people safe, and we’re really happy to have done that," David Weiss, the NBA’s senior vice president of player matters, told the Times recently. "At the same time, the virus keeps changing, so what we have to do keeps changing.
"No one knows everything about COVID, and so we’re always willing to revisit what we do."
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told Time magazine in April that "more than 70% of our players have received at least one shot" of a COVID-19 vaccine.
The league later confirmed to the Times that nearly 80% of its players and staff with full access to players had at least one shot. The newspaper said the limit for team traveling parties was increased to 48 people for the playoffs. A traveling team doctor is mandatory.
"We could only require them to get vaccinated with the consent of their union but we have no plans to do so," Silver told Time. "We do see it as our role as the league to encourage them to get vaccinated and also demonstrate to our players that there are some very practical benefits to getting vaccinated.
"They can have more visits with family members while they’re on the road. They can go to restaurants depending on local rules and are allowed to otherwise congregate in ways even with teammates that they can’t if they’re not vaccinated."
Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, widely considered one of the game’s all-time greatest players, was found to be in breach of the NBA's health and safety protocols in mid-May.
ESPN reported James was not suspended because the circumstances surrounding James didn't rise to a threat level of virus spread.
In February, it was reported many of the NBA’s most popular players rejected requests to promote COVID-19 vaccinations.
Players and player agents said the resistance was consistent with the general skepticism of the vaccine among American Blacks, who according to one survey only 38% have expressed confidence.
COVID protocols prevented the Lakers from visiting the White House to celebrate their 2020 NBA championship when the team travels to Washington, D.C., in April.