Suns lose Paul to heel soreness against Sixers

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PHILADELPHIA — Phoenix Suns star Chris Paul left in the second quarter of Monday night’s 100-88 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers with right heel soreness.

Paul tried to go around a screen by 76ers big man Paul Reed with 6 minutes, 27 seconds to go in the quarter, and immediately hopped in pain and grabbed at his right foot. He very slowly jogged down to the other end of the court, and when a foul was called a few seconds later, he was subbed out of the game and didn’t return.

“Trust me,” Paul said afterward, “if I could have played, I would’ve.”

Paul said he wasn’t concerned about the injury being a long-term issue, and answered with a “Yeah” when asked if not returning to the game was just him and the team being cautious with the injury.

Suns coach Monty Williams said after the game that the team had no update on Paul’s status beyond what it issued at halftime, when he was ruled out for the remainder of the game with that listing of right heel soreness.

“He was good [coming into the game],” Williams said. “He just had like a misstep over in the corner, and I looked up and he was limping a little bit.”

Paul didn’t have any wrap or other sort of covering on his right foot in the locker room after the game.

Paul, who entered Monday as the league’s leader with 10.2 assists per game, wasn’t the only player absent for the Suns. They also played their first game since starting power forward Cameron Johnson was ruled out indefinitely because of a torn meniscus in his right knee that he suffered Friday at home against the Portland Trail Blazers.

Williams said the Suns will take a by-committee approach to the power forward spot, with Torrey Craig — who had three points on 1-for-6 shooting in 23 minutes Monday — getting the first crack at it.

Other options Williams said he could consider are forwards Damion Lee and Dario Saric and center Jock Landale to play alongside Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges in Phoenix’s frontcourt.

“It’s tough, man,” said Devin Booker, who had 28 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists in 43 minutes Monday night. “You never want to see a teammate get hurt, and it’s just a different dynamic. … You just have different looks and different flow, and we’re a good team at figuring that out.”

Monday also saw the return of 76ers superstar Joel Embiid to the lineup after he missed all three of Philadelphia’s games last week with a non-COVID-19 illness. Embiid finished with 33 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists in 37 minutes — including going a perfect 16-for-16 from the free throw line — but was disappointed with his performance.

“I was OK,” Embiid said. “I didn’t shoot well from the field … under 50 percent. I just got to get back to myself and be aggressive. But I thought, as a team, we missed a lot of easy shots and a lot of wide-open shots, but defensively we were pretty good.”

Embiid, who dealt with plantar fasciitis in the offseason that limited his conditioning, looked understandably tired early on in the game and wound up shooting 8-for-20 from the field. He said the best way for him to get his conditioning back is going to be to play in games, and he will try to help the 76ers navigate the absence of James Harden, who is out for the next several weeks with a right foot strain.

“Keep pushing myself, keep trying to get myself out of this sickness,” he said, when asked how he could get his conditioning back as quickly as possible. “Hope for the best, but it’s probably going to take awhile because [the illness] really hit me. But I’m excited for the challenge, and we’re going to need every single minute to be able to hold down the fort without James.”

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