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Suns remain realistic, optimistic for NBA ramp-up from coronavirus halt

James Jones, Suns general manager (Matt Layman/Arizona Sports)

Within a week of the coronavirus suspending the NBA season, Phoenix Suns GM James Jones knew any re-start would take multiple weeks.

A month into the halt, it’s become clear than any ramping up would take more time as players have been isolated from the team facility and limited in how they stay in shape.

“Those are ongoing conversations (with the NBA),” Jones told reporters on a conference call Thursday. “I would guess, like everyone can assume, that’s it’s not going to be a couple of weeks. It’ll probably take multiple weeks, maybe somewhere, five, six, seven weeks. We don’t know.

“The most important thing for us to be able to do is to get our guys back in the building for at least two weeks to just assess where they are as a league.”

As social distancing restrictions stand, that point isn’t in sight.

Suns head coach Monty Williams, who joined Jones on the phone call with reporters, pointed out that this isn’t comparable to past lockouts, when players dropped into gyms for pickup and brought attention to streetball courts amid a work stoppage.

“Guys haven’t done a lot during this time,” Williams said. “During a lockout, we still played.

“This is totally different.”

To that point, Suns forwards Kelly Oubre Jr. and Frank Kaminsky have had time to recover their respective knee injuries. But they haven’t gone through intensive rehab to be ready if the season ramps up quickly.

Williams said Wednesday he’s kept Phoenix players engaged by looking over film from the “past season.”

Again, no decision by the NBA has been made about whether the 2019-20 regular season will resume, or how, but Williams’ word choice showed the sharp realities of how coronavirus has changed the world and put basketball in the backseat of priorities.

Nonetheless, Jones said he is optimistic the season can return.

“I do know that (NBA commissioner) Adam (Silver) and all the teams, we’ll explore every option to resume the season,” Jones said. “We want to crown the champion. I think every player will tell you they want closure to the season. We’ll do that in a respectful way. We won’t forsake health or wellness to play.”

The Suns are prepared for it logistically.

As construction continues on renovations to Talking Stick Resort Arena, the team is ready to resume the regular season at Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum, the Suns’ original home from 1968-1992.

“It’d be pretty cool to coach over there and have our players play in that place,” Williams said, adding he visited the arena on 19th Avenue and McDowell Road. “I think it’s a special place for this city. For the time being, as we make these adjustments, it’d just be a cool opportunity for us to reach back in time and see how it used to be.

“If and when we do play there, it’s going to be a special time for many of our throwback fans.”

With a glass half-full, Jones hopes his improving team can hit the court in the Madhouse on McDowell.

That would provide closure — and symbolically transition them into a new season and refreshed home arena.

“Given where we are, with the transformation that is happening at Talking Stick, we needed to have a contingency and we needed to make sure that if and when the season resumes that we had a place we could call home, a place that had some familiarity and a place that had history,” the GM said.

“So I don’t think there will be a better story or visual than us having a chance to play on McDowell, finish this season strong and roll the success we’d have at the end of our season into (next year).”

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