EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Suns controlling what they can after postponements during pandemic

Jan 17, 2021, 6:06 PM | Updated: Jan 18, 2021, 11:05 am
Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams stands on side of court during their game against the Sacram...
Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams stands on side of court during their game against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center on December 27, 2020 in Sacramento, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

“Control what you can control.”

You’ll hear that a time or thousand when players and coaches across professional sports speak with the media, but that phrase has taken on a whole new meaning during the pandemic.

The Phoenix Suns are one of the peak examples of that.

They played the Washington Wizards on Monday, and it was learned by the end of the week that the Wizards had six players test positive for COVID-19. Due to contact tracing protocols, that forced the Suns to postpone their next three games.

And just as it appears they are ready to go and return on Monday in Memphis against the Grizzlies, another situation is developing.

The Grizzlies faced the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday and the 76ers had their game on Sunday against the Oklahoma City Thunder postponed 90 minutes before tip-off due to ongoing contact tracing for Philly.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that is indeed due to contact tracing from the Memphis game on Saturday.

The Grizzlies ruled out Jonas Valanciunas on Sunday due to health and safety protocols. He played 20 minutes against the Sixers on Saturday.

A trend similar to Washington’s prior to playing the Suns is growing for the Grizzlies:

As of early Sunday evening, there is no word from the NBA on the Suns’ game being postponed. Based on what happened after the Wizards game, though, postponing Monday and the Suns being as safe as possible while having to reschedule one game instead of potentially another run of three or more seems wise.

For now, the Suns will control what they can control, as they did from Wednesday morning on once word came down they were not playing against the Atlanta Hawks that night.

On Sunday speaking from Memphis, head coach Monty Williams wasn’t able to put together a specific timeline of how the Suns went about their business from then until Sunday. What he was able to say is that Phoenix got some individual work done while the contact tracing process got completed. He complimented head strength and conditioning coach Cory Schlesinger on maintaining the players’ conditioning through an unorthodox in-season gym schedule.

“A lot of conversations with the players this week trying to keep them informed, engaged,” Willaims said. “Our training staff did an unreal job of doing what they could to keep our guys locked in. Conditioning, quick-twitch stuff.”

The Suns added centers Damian Jones and Dario Saric to the health and safety protocols on Sunday’s injury report, the first report to come since Monday’s loss to the Wizards. As was the case with big man Jalen Smith who remains out, Williams couldn’t provide details there. That’s because of HIPAA, so it’s unclear if Saric and Smith are still in contact tracing, have inconclusive tests or have contracted the virus. And it’s unknown if that is because of the Wizards game.

The Suns are down to two bigs: Deandre Ayton and Frank Kaminsky. And, again, we don’t know for how long. Timelines with the virus vary.

Phoenix is doing what it can from its end.

“I told the guys yesterday they did a heck of a job not complaining, getting into the gym on their time slots, and getting their work in and going home,” Williams said. “It was something that I thought they should be commended for because our guys did a great job of handling this last week.”

“Our guys have done a really good job on the road,” he added. “They stay in the hotel, they play cards, video games, they get together — they haven’t been going out or doing any of that stuff that they normally could do so I felt bad because we got put in a situation that can happen to anybody. And we just dealt with it.”

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