When will Suns Deandre Ayton and Jae Crowder Return from Protocols?

Phoenix Suns, Jae Crowder, Deandre Ayton. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Phoenix Suns, Jae Crowder, Deandre Ayton. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

It felt like watching a sick and twisted merry-go-round to see Phoenix Suns players Deandre Ayton and Jae Crowder both go into NBA health and safety protocols this week, only for Elfrid Payton to come back and rejoin the team even after he tested in just a day before.

While Crowder, Ayton, and head coach Monty Williams missed last night’s bout with the Memphis Grizzlies, the league allowed Payton play, who scored two points in eight minutes of run. He also collected two rebounds and a steal.

Although Payton’s return certainly came as good news for the Suns, it felt confusing and somewhat annoying for fans to watch him re-enter the league so quickly while others could not. Payton’s time in protocols, just over 24 hours, was fractional compared to that of other star players like Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden, and Trae Young, who all missed multiple games while quarantining.

But now with Ayton and Crowder missing extended time, it remains to be seen whether or not the league might chain them up for several games like those aforementioned players, or allow them return to the Suns after a short period like with Payton.

How long could the Phoenix Suns be without Deandre Ayton and Jae Crowder?

The league’s ever-changing quarantine rules make this whole situation difficult to follow. But as it stands now, two negative tests that take place 24 hours apart can grant a player readmission to his team.

Although not known for sure, this rule more likely than not allowed Payton to come back and play for the Suns so quickly as opposed to Ayton and Crowder.

But with that assumption, it also remains likely that Crowder did not score a negative test either  yesterday or the day before, hence why he went into protocols at the same time as Payton but did not come out with him. Both he and Ayton need to attain those two negative tests if they want to suit up for Phoenix’s next two games against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Boston Celtics.

But even if both players fail to test negative, new rules now make it easier for them to return than it ever was for Durant, Harden, Antetokounmpo, Young, and the countless others who went into protocols these past two weeks.

As long as players do not exhibit any COVID-19 symptoms and data shows they are no longer contagious, they may return to play after a six-day quarantine period, rather than the 10-day one. That timeline applied for Crowder and Ayton sets them both up to return for Phoenix’s game against the Charlotte Hornets on January 2nd.

To reiterate though, that all banks on Ayton and Crowder meeting those terms. To return after the proposed six-day period, they must remain asymptomatic and non-contagious.

So between that avenue and the one assumedly taken by Payton, several dominoes still need to fall perfectly for either Crowder or Ayton come back during these next two games, or early next week.

On top of that, a great deal about each player’s situation remains unknown, making it impossible to predict exactly when guys might return. This all comes as speculation based off how the NBA’s rules work in accordance when both Crowder and Ayton entered protocols.

At the same time, respecting each player’s personal medical information remains a paramount importance. Each guy’s case is different, and might give way to outstanding details impacting their availability which we have no right of knowing.

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But regardless, fans do not need to worry as much with these new rules playing into Phoenix’s favor while they start to deal with this latest COVID-19 spike. Already with injuries to Abdel Nader, Frank Kaminsky, and Ish Wainright, the Suns need their guys back soon, and the league clearly wants to make that as feasible as possible.