Phoenix Suns' Chris Paul out indefinitely, placed in NBA health and safety protocols

Phoenix Suns point guard Chris Paul has entered the NBA's health and safety protocols and is out indefinitely, jeopardizing the star's availability for the Western Conference finals.

The NBA's rules for coronavirus-related isolation periods have evolved throughout the season in correlation with increasing vaccine numbers. If Paul is already vaccinated against COVID-19, he could be facing a shorter absence from the Suns.

ESPN's Matt Barnes, appearing on The Jump, said Paul told him Wednesday that he has been vaccinated.

Suns coach Monty Williams wouldn't say whether he expected Paul to be available for Game 1 of the West finals.

"I'm not even going to go there until I have to, so there's no reason for me to be pessimistic at all," Williams said. "We just have to wait and see what's going to happen."

The Suns said Paul's status will be evaluated again Saturday. Williams said he and Paul have talked daily this week.

"Thankfully we've put ourselves in a position where we have time," Williams said. "But at the same time, as the coach, I have to think through those scenarios. I've thought a lot about it. I haven't, we haven't, made a decision yet because we don't have to, but it is a process for me to think about who starts and the rotation after it."

Phoenix swept Denver in the conference semifinals and will face either the Utah Jazz or LA Clippers in the Western Conference finals, which are scheduled to start next week. Against the Nuggets, 36-year-old Paul averaged 25.5 points on 61.8% shooting, 58.3% from 3, 100% from the free throw line, plus a 41-to-5 assist-to-turnover ratio.

The protocols are the league's playbook for handling all matters related to the coronavirus this season. There have been examples of players missing multiple weeks after positive COVID-19 tests; there have also been examples of players missing very short amounts of time for matters such as contact tracing investigations.

In March, the NBA relaxed some of the protocols that were put into place in the fall, doing so in response to players and coaches choosing to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

But the league also cautioned at that time that "if an individual has symptoms consistent with COVID-19, the previous protocols apply," which would mean that anyone with those symptoms "may be subject to quarantine" regardless of their vaccination status.

For people who test positive for COVID-19, there are two paths to returning to play -- one that is test-based and one that is time-based.

For the test-based resolution, the person must return at least two consecutive negative PCR tests at least 24 hours apart. For the time-based resolution, the person would have to go at least 10 days since the date of their first positive test or the onset of any symptoms, if they had any; go at least 24 hours since their fever went away without using any medication; and have any other symptoms improved. A loss of taste or smell alone is not expected to prevent someone from leaving isolation.

Any player who is determined to have a new positive case from testing -- asymptomatic or not -- will not be allowed to participate in any exercise training for at least 10 days from either the positive test or the resolution of symptoms. The player would then need to undergo a cardiac screen once he begins workouts.

This is set to be Paul's second trip to the conference finals, along with 2018, when he was a member of the Rockets and missed Games 6 and 7 because of a hamstring injury as Houston fell in seven games to the Golden State Warriors.

"My faith isn't going to waver now because we've had a few obstacles," Williams said. "We've had obstacles all season long and gotten through a lot of stuff. You look forward to these challenges, you embrace them, and you move forward."

ESPN's Royce Young and Tim Bontemps and The Associated Press contributed to this report.