Phoenix Suns star guard Chris Paul suffered a right shoulder contusion in the second quarter of Game 1 against the Los Angeles Lakers but gutted through it to help his team kick off the series with a win. Paul, who is playing his first season with the Suns, collided with teammate Cameron Johnson and immediately exited the game and went to the locker room with a trainer.
Paul returned to the game a couple of minutes later but he was clearly hampered by the injury in the rest of the game. Still, Paul's leadership and presence guided the Suns to a 99-90 win over the Lakers. "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 heard a 'crack'
Paul scored only seven points but also had eight assists.
"I just remember I felt 'Uhh!' I heard like a crack, or whatever," Paul said, describing the impact. After Paul went down, players from both the Suns and Lakers gathered to check out on the guard. "When you saw both teams hovering around him and making sure he was OK, that was the big part about it that really warmed everybody's heart that was on the floor, really," said the Suns' Deandre Ayton.
"Although we were competing, trying to kill one another to get a win, at the end of the day, it's bigger than basketball." Suns coach Williams said he would understood if Paul decided not to come back to the game.
"Any time a guy lays it on the line physically like that after taking that kind of hit, it gives you juice," Williams said. "Then you think about every experience Chris has had, how many games he's played, everything he has accomplished.
Nobody would've faulted him for not coming back, but when he did come back, we saw the emotion on his face and I thought that drove our guys. I got emotional just watching him battle tonight." There was no way Paul wasn't coming back to the game.
"In the thing Kobe says, like, 'Injuries, sometimes you just can't control them,'" Paul said. "So, that was all that was going through my mind after the play I got hit."