Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul exited Game 1 against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday with a scary-looking upper-body injury.
Paul injured his shoulder after colliding with a teammate following a Lakers basket. Paul laid on the ground for some time before being helped off the court by LeBron James and others. James has called Paul one of his best friends off the court.
While the injury looked bad, Paul returned to the bench shortly after and re-entered the game. He received a standing ovation from the crowd in Phoenix.
UPDATE: Paul went back to the locker room in the third quarter. The veteran point guard looked to be having a tough time handling the ball, losing it on several occasions. He later returned to the game.
“I talked to him briefly just now and his words to me was he was OK and he would be OK moving forward,” Suns head coach Monty Williams said after the game. “He was pretty sore when he came back, but him playing today gave us a lot of juice, a lot of energy. It was inspirational to watch him out there, give it his all on both sides of the floor.”
Paul confirmed he would be good to go for Game 2, per ESPN.
Chris Paul Has Had Tough Injury History
Paul has a Hall of Fame resume but has never played in an NBA Finals. He’s also had some tough injury history in the postseason, including a devastating hamstring injury while with the Houston Rockets
The 36-year-old Paul played 70 of the Suns 72 games this season and was proud of his availability for his new team. He averaged 16.4 points, 4.5 rebounds and 8.9 assists, getting the 11th All-Star nod of his career.
“I felt good. I felt really good,” Paul told arizonasports.com. “I think at this point in my career, one of the biggest things I’m probably the most proud of is being available. I think that’s a talent in itself, just being available for your team.
“Given the rigorous schedule that we had, think I did a really good job of taking care of my body and making sure I was ready to play every night. As far as efficiency, that’s what I expect. You put the work in, you expect that to happen.”
LeBron James on Chris Paul: ‘I’ve Always Rooted for Him’
James and Paul had never faced off in the postseason previously. James was embracing his first face-off with his friend at the most important time of the year.
“Our journeys, we’ve been playing this game at such a high level for a long time,” James told reporters on Wednesday after dispatching the Golden State Warriors in the play-in game. “I’ve always rooted for him, for D-Wade, for Melo to succeed. Got an opportunity to play against Melo in the playoffs a few times. I never got the opportunity to play against D-Wade in the postseason … obviously had a great four-year run (together) in Miami. It’s going to be pretty cool just to be on the same floor competing. One of the most fierce competitors this game has had over his career. Looking forward to the matchup.”
James said he doesn’t use his four rings to Paul’s none as banter.
“I think you know me by now,” James said, per ESPN. “I think that’s not in my [character] traits. I don’t really talk about my accolades, or what I’ve been able to do. And our friendship is beyond that. So I’m not one of those guys to talk about what I have. I think that’s very shallow. That’s beneath me, personally. So I don’t get involved in that.”
Much of the talk leading up to the matchup was how unfortunate the Suns were after finishing as the No. 2 seed to get the Lakers in the first round. Suns coach Monty Williams said that didn’t rub his team the wrong way.
“Our guys aren’t bitter,” Williams said. “We’re looking forward to competing against the Lakers. That’s how we look at it. We’re not upset or feel like anybody’s done something to our Cheerios. We have to go play the Lakers. Everything you want is on the other side of hard. Right now the Lakers are our hard.”
The Suns and Lakers meet up for Game 2 on Tuesday.