There appears to be optimism that the Phoenix Suns won’t be without Chris Paul for much longer. After missing Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals in the NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols, the star point guard is eyeing a return.

Paul reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday despite being vaccinated. The 36-year-old has been symptom-free, sources told Yahoo Sports, increasing the chances that he could rejoin the team soon.

“It’s just a day-to-day thing with him right now,” Suns head coach Monty Williams said after Sunday’s 120-114 Game 1 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers. “I probably drive the people here crazy with that, but that’s the way it is. We’re hopeful that any day now we hear he can ramp up and get back with us. But right now, he’s in the protocol.”

Players who test positive for COVID-19 must produce two negative tests at least 24 hours apart. Before returning to the court, those players undergo two cardiac tests, which is usually a two-day process

Game 2 is set for Tuesday in Phoenix. Paul’s status for that contest is murky, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who reported that there’s optimism Paul will be back sooner than later.

The series moves to Los Angeles on Thursday for Game 3. That would mark 10 days since Paul’s diagnosis.

In Paul’s absence, Devin Booker carried the Suns to a 1-0 series lead. Booker posted his first career triple-double with 40 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists. Cameron Payne started at point guard in place of Paul, recording 11 points and nine assists in 29 minutes.

“We put him on FaceTime. He’s our leader. We lean on him for a lot,” said Booker, who was seen alongside Deandre Ayton speaking with Paul on FaceTime after the win. “We know how disappointed he is and frustrated he is he couldn't be out here for Game 1 of the Western Conference finals, especially knowing his past history around this time. But we had him all the way through. We brought him in the locker room, had him in our after-game huddle. He’s proud of us. He’s ready to get back, he’s working and we can't wait to have him.”

The Suns have won eight straight playoff games, including a second-round sweep of the Denver Nuggets. Paul was Phoenix’s best player against Denver, leading the team with 25.5 points and 10.3 assists per game while shooting 62.7% from the field.

Paul finished fifth in the 2021 NBA MVP race

Phoenix is a heavy betting favorite to reach the NBA Finals. Clippers star Kawhi Leonard has missed three straight games with a knee injury, though he’s yet to be officially ruled out of returning this series.

Chris Paul Chris Paul Photo: Getty Images