Suns had COVID-19 outbreak to end Mavs series, per report

Jun 8, 2022, 7:14 AM | Updated: 9:10 am

Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) drives past Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) during the fi...

Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) drives past Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) during the first half of Game 7 of an NBA basketball Western Conference playoff semifinal, Sunday, May 15, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

(AP Photo/Matt York)

The Phoenix Suns ended their conference semifinals series against the Dallas Mavericks — and their 2021-22 season — suffering from a COVID-19 outbreak, reported The Athletic’s Sam Amick and Joe Vardon.

Six members of the team, including a player, tested positive for the virus at the tail end of the series or just after it ended. The team did not gather for in-person exit interviews as a result of the outbreak, according to the report.

The news might help explain, in part, how Phoenix went from beating Dallas by 30 points in Game 5 before losing by 27 and then 33 points in Games 6 and 7, respectively.

More than that, it raises questions about the NBA’s current COVID-19 regulations.

“I think it’s very clear that nobody wanted to report stuff,” said one source with knowledge of the Suns’ positive tests who was not authorized to speak publicly about them. “And this is where it gets dicey.”

A league spokesman told The Athletic, “The NBA has seen no evidence to suggest any rules violations by Suns players or staff.” A league source added the NBA could always revisit the situation if new information emerged.

Teams are required to test if vaccinated employees are symptomatic, which includes grey area if a player or staffer does not report symptoms.

“You hear stories from quite a few teams, where it’s like we never admitted it publicly, but so-and-so doesn’t feel great and they’re a really important player,” Amick told Arizona Sports’ Bickley & Marotta on Wednesday after the story was published. “You might have a little quiet conversation, ‘I don’t know man, you sure you need to test?’ … That’s where I think the NBA has to continue reevaluating how they handle it.

“There’s a lot of room for things to happen in the shadows if that makes sense. There’s not a lot of day-to-day oversight. There really is an honor system where the only time the NBA is going to dive in and regulate is if something gets so obvious and so loud that they’re forced to.”

The Suns did not comment on the report to The Athletic before it published the story.

Amick and Vardon further report that the Mavericks were aware of the rumblings of an outbreak with the Suns and concerned for their own health as early as Game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals that they won in Game 7, which was May 15.

The Athletic’s policy is not to name players who test positive for COVID-19 unless they are named by the team. The other five members of the team who tested positive were “support staffers,” according to the report.

Amick told Bickley & Marotta that, in reporting for the story, some sources said they believed there was a rift in the Suns’ organization about how to handle the COVID-19 developments. Some thought it played a part in Phoenix’s flameout, while others disagreed.

“Do I think there were some really uncomfortable moments internally where some people felt like, ‘We should be more diligent, we should be testing more, we are seeing symptoms from a variety of people?’ Yeah, I think that happened,” Amick told Bickley & Marotta.

The league knew that the one player tested positive after the Game 7 loss and there were no red flags about if that player should have tested earlier, Amick added.

With that as one piece of knowledge, Amick added he did not think the NBA would dive deeper into the Suns’ situation investigation specifically — though the league has left the door open if any more information surfaces.

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