The Phoenix Suns begin to adjust to life without Chris Paul

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It didn’t take long for Chris Paul to work his way into the timeout caucus on Friday night in Phoenix.

“You can’t get him out of there,” Suns center Deandre Ayton said.

Paul watched his first game in street clothes this season as he is expected to miss at least six weeks with a broken right thumb.

Well, he did more than watch.

Paul was usually communicative himself, talking to coaches, teammates and even having fun with referee Derek Richardson.

“He’s going to be in there,” Devin Booker said with a smile.

The Suns lost their first game without him, 117-102, to New Orleans, but Ayton thought Paul was “pretty cold” considering how the game went.

“He was really laid back, but he definitely spoke to us at halftime,” Ayton said. “Doing what C normally does being one of the leaders of the team. Just pointing out the simple things and paying attention to certain details helps the guys move forward.

Here’s a recap of Paul’s interactions Friday night as the Suns move forward without their team manager for likely the rest of the regular season.

Six games ahead of the Warriors (43-17), Phoenix (49-11) faces Utah (37-22) Sunday afternoon at home.

“I feel like we can only get better,” veteran Suns forward Jae Crowder said. “We’ve put ourselves in a position to have a cushion, but at the same time we’re playing for something. We play basketball every night and I think that gives us an opportunity to grow.”

6:30 remaining in 1st quarter: Suns 14, Pelicans 13

Dressed in a blue suit with white pinstripes, white shirt and handkerchief with Nike sneakers and a gray mask, Paul had that Team USA look.

Ayton: “I had the nice blazer, mixed in with the coaches.”

Booker: “Yeah, that looks good. That looks good.”

Very nice.

Paul took his usual place at the end of the bench when the game started.

He didn’t sit still for too long.

Paul got up several times and nearly entered the field after the Suns forced the Pelicans into a 24-second violation.

He nodded after Ayton and Booker scored. During the first timeout, Paul was in the group talking with Booker and Crowder as the coaches strategized on the pitch.

Paul returned his attention to Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson for a few seconds before conversing with Booker again.

Then he withdrew from the group as Williams took his usual place in the group to speak to the starters.

Now on the periphery, Paul interacted with assistants Kevin Young and Mark Bryant.

They were all smiles as Richardson walked to the Suns bench. Paul put his hand on Richardson’s shoulder and the two burst out laughing.

I don’t know what they were discussing, but Paul’s conversations during games with the referees are usually not very friendly.

4:58 remaining in 1st half: Suns 44, Pelicans 41

Later, the Suns assembled a team that no one wants to see.

Torrey Craig went down after being called for a foul on Naji Marshall early in the second quarter and grabbed his knee.

Paul was one of the first guys off the bench to deal with Craig and eventually helped his teammate, fractured right thumb and all.

Craig finally returned with 7:31 to go in the half.

If only Paul’s injury wasn’t so serious that he could have returned to the game after the All-Star break.

“He’s still a guy who wants to be on the court,” said Pelicans coach Willie Green, who has served as Phoenix’s senior assistant for the past two seasons and is one of the closest friends. close to Paul.

“He wants to play every game possible. The sacrifices he made to be the player he is, even today, are commendable. It’s a blow for him and the good thing about it is that it’s something he can recover from, something he can come back to and the team will probably be stronger down the stretch.

Phoenix was trailing by five when Craig returned. Jonas Valanciunas pushed New Orleans’ lead to seven with an inside bucket before the Suns responded with a 10-0 run capped by a Booker 3 to regain the lead, 44-41.

As Booker launched the shot, Paul ran up the baseline near the bench holding up a 3 sign.

Time-out pelicans.

“He’s a keeper”

As the Suns unit returned to the bench, Paul slaps Bridges on the butt. Then he and Booker had fun as Booker had that running move that made Paul laugh.

Paul slipped a quick comment into the group before Williams entered.

As Williams spoke, Paul stood next to Young and chatted a bit.

Paul then sat down next to Cameron Payne, who was wearing a black jacket that read “Gallery Department” on the back.

Payne has missed 15 straight games with a sprained right wrist.

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The Suns were also without Aaron Holiday, who had 12 points on 5-of-5 shooting and five assists in Thursday’s win at Oklahoma City.

The Pelicans finished the half on a 12-6 run to take a 53-50 lead.

As Ayton said, Paul had some words for the team at the break.

“Chris is not just a leader,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “He’s a keeper. I don’t think he’s going to miss a step when it comes to his leadership role.”

5:06 remaining in third quarter: Pelicans 79, Suns 70

New Orleans began to pull away with a 42-point third quarter.

Conversely, the Suns began to unravel a bit.

Booker felt like he had fouled a drive and reacted in frustration.

Seconds later, Booker saw Cam Johnson get called for a charge after dribbling CJ McCollum.

Oh oh.

Booker grew even more passionate and was called on a technical foul to give him the same number of techs Paul has – 12.

Phoenix timer. Nine sunsets.

“Foul things, we have to get over that,” Williams said. “I thought there were calls that didn’t make much sense, but it happens every game. We gave up a 42-point third quarter.

Booker noted that New Orleans attempted 41 free throws (33) against Phoenix on 18 of 24. The Suns were called for nine other fouls.

“Lots of fouling,” Ayton said. “We’re not going to put it on the referees.”

During this passionate moment, Paul was perhaps his quietest Friday evening.

He stood up and watched the replay on the gigantic dashboard.

Paul then watched a video of Payne talking about “Valley Threads”, a clothing line, as a portion of the proceeds will be donated to youth mentoring programs in the community – a cause chosen by his assistant.

Then he spoke with Williams near the end of the timeout.

3:15 left in the fourth: Pelicans 111, Suns 95

Time-out pelicans.

Fans were leaving Footprint Center.

It’s been over a while since the Suns lost at home.

January 8. Miami 123, Phoenix. 100.

Clearly disappointed, the Suns watched their eight-game winning streak turn into a 15-point loss to the Pelicans 24-36.

With the starters on the bench during the timeout, Paul gave Johnson, who started in his absence, Crowder, Ayton, Bridges and Booker a pound.

The night before, Phoenix found a way to shut down the Thunder in their first game without Paul.

Up just five with 5:58 left in the fourth, Phoenix ended a chilly night at OKC with a 24-9 run that Johnson sparked with a 3 to win, 124-104.

“It’s usually CP time,” Johnson said after Thursday’s game. “Everything he does to help us win games, we don’t just sit back and just watch. We understood how he handles situations and we were able to take advantage of the opportunities they gave us. throughout the game.

The following night, the Suns were not just midway through fourth, but in double digits as McCollum put the Pelicans, 106-90, on a deep two.

McCollum finished with a game-high 32 points.

The Suns are now 1-1 without Paul.

Williams joked before Thursday’s game that “Life Without Chris” sounded like a Netflix documentary, but got serious saying the Suns were looking forward to the challenge of playing with him injured.

That challenge continues Sunday against the Jazz on national television.

“We just have to find ways,” Booker said. “I think every game is going to be a new learning experience for us. Understanding things.

Do you have an opinion on the current state of the Suns? Contact Suns Insider Duane Rankin at dmrankin@gannett.com or contact him at 480-787-1240. Follow him on Twitter at @DuaneRankin.

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