Chris Paul participates in Suns practice, Payne and Crowder set to return

Mar 22, 2022, 3:05 PM | Updated: 3:08 pm
Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams, left and injured Suns guard Chris Paul, right, watch the ac...

Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams, left and injured Suns guard Chris Paul, right, watch the action in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Sunday, March 20, 2022. The Suns won 127-124.(AP Photo/José Luis Villegas)

(AP Photo/José Luis Villegas)

Chris Paul is closing in on returning from an avulsion fracture in his right thumb, appearing in a practice that did not include five-on-five work on Tuesday, Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams told reporters.

Paul was joined by fellow point guard Cam Payne (non-COVID illness) and Jae Crowder (ankle) as notable participants.

Crowder and Payne are set to return after not being placed on the injury report for Wednesday’s game in Minnesota against the Timberwolves. Paul remains out.

“They all did everything today but we didn’t do five-on-five,” Williams said. “They’re all in much better shape than they were — especially Jae. We didn’t know where he would end up and Cam is feeling a lot better today.

“We’ll see with him, and Chris has been able to do more and more in increments the last few days. What that means, I’m not going to say anything from an official standpoint but he is moving closer.”

Crowder has been hit with groin and ankle injuries in the past three games, while Payne sat out Sunday in a win over the Sacramento Kings due to his illness.

Phoenix still did not see forward Cam Johnson participate as he recovers from a quad contusion suffered on March 4. He is still out for Wednesday.

Paul has not played in a game since the injury on Feb. 16. He played two minutes in the NBA All-Star Game days after the injury, but his Suns went 10-4 out of the break without him.

News of Paul’s participation in practice came after The Athletic’s Sam Amick reported Monday that the point guard could return ahead of his original timeline — perhaps returning as soon as Wednesday in a game that could seal their No. 1 seed.

Paul was seen shooting after practices last week and went through a pregame workout before the team’s game at Sacramento on Sunday.

It was previously estimated his recovery would take six to eight weeks, but that timeline appears to have shortened.

Paul is averaging 14.9 points, 10.7 assists and 4.5 rebounds per outing.

Despite losing their floor general, the Suns have stayed atop the Western Conference standings, posting a 10-4 mark since Paul went down.

Point-guard duties have largely rested on the shoulders of Cameron Payne, Devin Booker and Aaron Holiday. With Paul back, the Suns are better equipped to chase a franchise record for wins in a regular season.

The Suns have won 62 games twice, in 1992-93 and 2004-05.

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