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Suns getting closer to full strength as Okobo, Baynes travel to Orlando

(Photo courtesy of @Suns/Twitter screenshot)

The Phoenix Suns, like most NBA teams in Orlando’s bubble, are not at full strength.

As Friday’s opener, erm, resumer, gets closer, teams are starting to get players back.

The Suns had point guard Ricky Rubio arrive on July 19 and he played in his first scrimmage on Sunday. Guard Elie Okobo practiced for the first time on Monday and center Aron Baynes left for Orlando on Monday as well.

The tricky part is figuring out a timeline for these guys because every situation is different.

We know Rubio had coronavirus and went through a few practices before returning. The team said Okobo’s absence was due to personal reasons, so it’s unclear if he needs to ramp up even more like Baynes does because the Aussie big man did have coronavirus and a difficult bout with it at that.

Baynes was on bed rest for a week and couldn’t get consecutive negative tests for over a month, just starting to work out again the week before his departure, he told The Athletic’s Shams Charania.

What the trio do have in common is arriving at Walt Disney World after their healthy teammates had a whole lot of practice and time together.

Rubio spoke on how he approached it mentally from a physical standpoint.

“The goal is not picking it up right away. It’s taking it step-by-step,” he said Monday. “You can’t skip steps because then it’s when injuries and all this stuff happens, so I think the most important thing is being able to listen to your body to really know what you’re capable of.”

Rubio referred to it as an “unknown situation” when it comes to going off past precedent. Judging from how Rubio answered the question, it’s honestly a credit to him that he was able to get back in the fold as quickly as he did.

Then there’s coach Monty Williams’ perspective as the person in charge of how he gets these players through that process and back to game-ready.

“You have to temper yourself,” he said. “As excited as you are to get guys back into the mix, you also have to realize that they’ve been out of pocket for a while and so you don’t want to push too hard.”

Williams said that he’s particularly focused on his word choice with returning players to try not to make them feel like they need to rush things, and he had moments with Rubio during practice where he had to slow his 29-year-old point guard down.

“You try to listen to those guys, listen to the staff, know their situation medically,” Williams said.


— Williams declined to give an update on the status of wing Kelly Oubre Jr. as that situation continues to get more ridiculous by the day.

Oubre is rehabbing his way back from meniscus surgery in early March, and when he spoke on July 14, he said it was on the Suns’ training staff as to whether he played or not and that he felt “fine.”

Williams said earlier this month that Oubre looked in great shape but had a handful of progress points to reach before playing, including playing in 3-on-3 and 5-on-5. In the last update Williams gave on Oubre, the forward wasn’t doing much work on the court and was more to the side.

This follows owner Robert Sarver saying on Arizona Sports in early June that Oubre would play in Orlando before Charania reported in mid-June that Oubre was “expected” to be out for all the games. In the six weeks since that report, the Suns have not ruled Oubre out and both Williams and general manager James Jones have not spoken like that’s the case.

With Williams denying to comment on Oubre, it sounds like we’re gonna have to wait for either Jones or Oubre to speak again to get anything further, or for an official announcement on his status.

— Power forward Dario Saric is day-to-day due to a left ankle injury. Saric stepped on Frank Kaminsky’s foot in the second quarter of Sunday’s scrimmage against the Boston Celtics and did not return.

Williams sounded encouraged that Saric was “walking normally” on Monday after Saric underwent lots of treatment after the game.

Saric has been great in the six quarters he’s played through two scrimmages, showing some newfound aggression off the dribble.

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