PHOENIX SUNS

Suns’ Ayton, Crowder, McGee clear protocols but are still out vs. Clippers

Jan 5, 2022, 5:11 PM | Updated: 6:30 pm

Phoenix Suns centers Deandre Ayton and JaVale McGee, plus forward Jae Crowder, have cleared the NBA’s health and safety protocols, the team announced Wednesday.

However, the trio is out for Thursday night’s contest against the Los Angeles Clippers as they undergo return-to-competition reconditioning.

“We’re still evaluating where those guys are,” Suns general manager James Jones told Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo on Wednesday.

“They’re clearing protocols but as we all know, it’s very difficult to just come off of a six- or seven-day hiatus and just start playing games. The hope is to get Jae, Deandre some reps and hopefully get them back in the next few days.”

The absence will mark the sixth game missed for Crowder and Ayton since being placed in COVID-19 protocols, while McGee won’t play in his fourth consecutive contest.

Crowder and guard Elfrid Payton were the first Suns to enter the COVID-19 protocols followed by Ayton and McGee.

Wing Abdel Nader and guard Landry Shamet have since been sidelined and remain the only Suns currently in health and safety protocols.

Head coach Monty Williams also went on the list and has since returned.

With up to five players away from the team at one point, the Suns signed five free agents to 10-day hardship deals: Forward Emanuel Terry, forward Paris Bass, wing Justin Jackson, guard M.J. Walker and center Bismack Biyombo.

Phoenix waived Terry to sign Jackson on Tuesday.

Guard Devin Booker has taken on a more aggressive role with his team down several rotation players and is averaging 29.3 points in the past five games.

Second-year big man Jalen Smith has additionally taken advantage of more playing time, averaging 15.2 points, 9.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game in the five outings as a rotation player.

The Suns host the Clippers at 8 p.m. Thursday on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

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