James Jones: Chris Paul’s absence ‘a great challenge’ for Phoenix Suns

Feb 22, 2022, 9:51 AM | Updated: 1:46 pm

Wednesday, the last game before the 2022 NBA All-Star break, Phoenix Suns point guard Chris Paul suffered a right thumb avulsion fracture.

Paul, who won’t need surgery and will be evaluated in 6-8 weeks, managed to still get a little run in during the exhibition, but that won’t be the case when the Suns return for their final playoff push on Thursday.

And with the eight-week mark hitting during the postseason, there’s a chance Phoenix might have to navigate a playoff game or two without one of their All-Stars.

For NBA squads, losing an every-game starter like Paul will certainly impact production and rhythm. Fortunately for general manager James Jones, he feels Phoenix’s roster construction can handle the point guard’s absence.

The GM also knows the kind of drive Paul has, especially when it comes to bouncing back from an injury.

“We all know Chris pushes the limits,” Jones told Arizona Sports’ Bickley & Marotta on Tuesday. “If he were to come back earlier, I wouldn’t be surprised. But we expect to have him down the stretch. This team is built for these types of moments.

“We came into the offseason saying that we needed a deep team. If we were going to make a real run we’re gonna have to be able to go 9-10 months straight. And to do that you need depth at every position and you need players that are willing to step up to the challenge. So it’ll be a great challenge for us and we’ll miss him sorely dearly, but I’m confident in our staff and our players that will we’ll figure it out.”

Despite Jones’ confidence in his bench pieces, losing Paul’s 10.7 assists and 14.9 points a night is still a tough pill to swallow. It’ll take a collective effort between the likes of ball handlers Devin Booker, Elfrid Payton and recently acquired Aaron Holiday to make up for the lost production.

Help could also be on the way soon enough in the form of point guard Cameron Payne, who flashed in place of Chris Paul last postseason and is considered day to day with a wrist injury.

“He showed last year when we gave him opportunities to step up and take a lead role that he was ready for it and he’s capable of doing it,” Jones said. “So I know he will relish the opportunity.”

Payne hasn’t played since Jan. 24 but is still third on the team in assists per game with 3.6 behind Booker’s 4.5 mark.

And while losing a key cog to the Suns’ success for any amount of time is never a good thing, Jones is looking on the bright side of things.

“Chris plays every game and every minute hard and full throttle with pure passion and intensity,” Jones said. “So you know if you play at this level, injuries will come. You hope that they aren’t extended injuries, but you know they come and so he’s been through this long enough to know that this isn’t a season-ending injury and it’s to his hand so the rest of his body is fine.

“He’ll be able to continue to condition himself. It will just be timing and we know if there’s anyone in this league that’s the master of timing it’s Chris Paul.”

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