Deandre Ayton Held Out of Suns' Starting Lineup After Missing COVID-19 Testing

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistAugust 10, 2020

Phoenix Suns' Deandre Ayton  reacts after being charged with a foul during an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kevin C. Cox/Pool Photo via AP)
Kevin C. Cox/Associated Press

Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton has been cleared to play after initially being held out of Monday's game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, according to Shams Charania of Stadium and The Athletic.

Ayton reportedly missed his coronavirus test Sunday and was unable to join the team until he received his results from Monday's test, per Charania. He was not in the lineup for the start of Monday's game.

However, the late clearance will allowed him to rejoin the team as soon as he arrived to the arena. He checked in at the start of the second quarter.

The game is critical for Phoenix, which has only two more seeding games after this one and limited time to make up ground in the Western Conference playoff race.

The Suns won their first five games of the restart in Orlando, but they entered Monday 1.5 games behind the No. 8 seed Memphis Grizzlies and one game behind the Portland Trail Blazers for the No. 9 seed and the chance at a play-in series.

Ayton is a difference-maker when in the lineup, averaging 18.9 points, 11.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game this season. He has three double-doubles in five games in Orlando.

However, he missed 25 games earlier this season because of a suspension for violating the league's anti-drug program. He has appeared in only 35 of the Suns' 70 games entering Monday.

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Phoenix needed its leading rebounder and second-leading scorer available as soon as possible for one of its most important games of the season.