Chris Paul, Dario Saric, Jae Crowder out for Suns’ 1st preseason game
Phoenix Suns fans will have to wait for the debut of Chris Paul. The veteran point guard is out for Saturday’s preseason opener due to right ankle soreness.
Big man Dario Saric is also out because of right quad soreness while wing Cam Johnson (left knee soreness) will play after being listed as questionable. Head coach Monty Williams said pregame that forward Jae Crowder will also not play. Crowder had his first full practice with the team on Wednesday after attending to some personal matters.
Williams said Friday he expects most teams to be at this stage right now when it comes to soreness, as he compared the ramp-up players are experiencing to going from 20 miles per hour to 100. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, players have been away from pickup basketball in the offseason, when the norm is usually 4-6 weeks of that before training camp.
Paul, 35, had his season wrap up just over three months ago after the Oklahoma City Thunder were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Houston Rockets. It is accustomed for players with Paul’s high mileage to miss some time in the preseason.
As for Crowder, his Miami Heat team fell in the NBA Finals in mid-October, giving him quite the quick turnaround.
With no Paul, that’ll open the door for more minutes at guard, the most competitive and deep position for Phoenix. Cameron Payne and Jevon Carter will look to carry over their high level of success from the bubble while free agent signings E’Twaun Moore and Langston Galloway provide a veteran presence.
Williams said pregame Payne will start in place of Paul alongside Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Johnson and Deandre Ayton.
Saric’s absence likely means plenty of time for first-round pick Jalen Smith to get acclimated to the NBA. Smith, like Saric, is expected to toggle between the 4 and the 5. Williams said pregame that these games will be important especially for Smith since he did not have a summer league to play in and get a feel for the league’s pace.
Free agent additions Damian Jones and Johnathan Motley, who are both expected to be more towards the end of the bench in the rotation, should see some playing time down low too.
The Suns take on the Jazz at 7 p.m. and you can hear the action live on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.