NBA regular season

Mavericks star Luka Doncic, 2 others clear COVID-19 protocol

Mavericks star Luka Doncic, 2 others clear COVID-19 protocol

BIG RETURN. Luka Doncic averages a near triple-double for the Mavericks.

Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

The Mavericks welcome back Luka Doncic, who missed the last 10 games, first with left ankle soreness and then due to the league's COVID-19 protocol

Dallas Mavericks star guard Luka Doncic cleared the COVID-19 protocol on Saturday, January 1, and is expected to play in a road game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday, January 2 (Monday, January 3, Manila time).

Dallas guard Tim Hardaway Jr. and forward Maxi Kleber also cleared the protocol. The Mavericks removed all three players from their injury report.

Doncic missed the past 10 games – the first five due to an ankle injury and the last five due to the COVID-19 protocol. He last played on December 10.

The Mavericks have gone 5-5 without Doncic, including Friday’s 112-96 win in Sacramento.

“We compete. We fight. We’re in games,” Dallas coach Jason Kidd said. “It’s just a matter of does the ball bounce, do we get a stop or do we make a shot.”

Doncic, 22, is averaging 25.6 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 8.5 assists in 21 games this season.

Hardaway and Kleber will both return after six-game absences. Hardaway is averaging 14.9 points in 29 games while Kleber is averaging 7.3 points in 20 games.

The Mavericks have five players still in the protocol: Trey Burke, Brandon Knight, Boban Marjanovic, JaQuori McLaughlin, and Isaiah Thomas.

Also, guard Frank Ntilikina (thigh) is listed as questionable.

The stretch without Doncic began with a 103-84 win in Oklahoma City, a game in which Jalen Brunson led the Mavericks with 18 points.

Brunson’s play has been a big reason why Dallas has been able to stay afloat. Brunson is averaging 21 points and 7.4 assists over the last 10 games. He was averaging 14.3 points and 4.8 assists over his first 24 games.

“My mindset stays the same,” Brunson said. “The role may change, the minutes may change, but the mindset stays the same. Go out there, be aggressive, be confident, play my game. Really nothing changes as far as the mindset part. We want to get him (Doncic) back and healthy.”

While the Mavericks get their star point guard back, the Thunder appear to be losing theirs as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City’s leading scorer, was placed in the health and safety protocols Saturday and listed as out.

Gilgeous-Alexander joins Darius Bazley, Tre Mann, and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl in the protocols. –