NBA regular season

LeBron clears COVID-19 protocols, to return for Lakers-Clippers game

LeBron clears COVID-19 protocols, to return for Lakers-Clippers game

TOUGH START. LeBron James has played in only 11 games this season.

Raj Mehta/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

LeBron James' rough season gets a little better as the Lakers superstar returns to action after he was placed in COVID-19 protocol 

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James, placed in the NBA’s health and safety protocol earlier this week after it was announced he had tested positive for COVID-19, has been cleared to return to action Friday, December 3 (Saturday, December 4, Manila time).

After registering multiple negative tests for the virus, James was given the OK to play. He missed the Lakers’ game Tuesday against the Sacramento Kings because he was in COVID protocol.

“James was originally placed in the Protocols on Tuesday, November 30 after a series of tests delivered conflicting results, including an initial positive test that was collected on November 29,” a statement from the NBA said Thursday. “Additional testing confirmed that he is not a positive case.”

The Athletic on Thursday quoted sources as saying James has had several negative tests since he returned to Los Angeles from Sacramento on Tuesday evening. 

The initial positive test turned out to be inconclusive upon being rerun.

The Lakers will host the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night.

In September, James said he received a vaccine for COVID despite being skeptical at first.

Vaccinated players still have to quarantine if they test positive, whether or not they show symptoms. 

Vaccinated players are not required to be quarantined for a close contact of a positive case, but they would then be tested for the coronavirus.

James has played in only 11 games this season due to an abdominal strain. He is averaging 25.8 points, 6.8 assists and 5.2 rebounds a game.

Rough season

But while the Lakers’ biggest superstar will be back, one of the Clippers’ brightest stars will remain out when the teams meet Friday night for the first time this season.

The Clippers have been without Kawhi Leonard indefinitely after offseason knee surgery.

James’ rough season got a little better when he got the OK to play on Thursday.

Before being placed in COVID protocol, he had been suspended for a November 23 game at the New York Knicks for his role in an altercation against the Detroit Pistons two days prior. 

At that time, he was just two games into a return from an eight-game absence because of an abdominal strain. He was also sidelined two games in October because of a sore right ankle.

Without James on Tuesday for the 12th time in 23 games, the Lakers earned a 117-92 victory at Sacramento, four days after they fell to the Kings, 141-137, in triple overtime. 

“We still gotta find ways to win,” Davis said about playing without James. “We can’t let that affect us. Obviously, he’s a huge part of our team, but we’ve played a huge amount of games without him, so we kinda know how that is already.”

Davis is averaging 24.3 points with 10.0 rebounds a game this season, while Westbrook has 20.7 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 8.6 assists, as the Lakers have won three of their past four. But they are just 12-11 in the early going.

As rocky as the Lakers’ road has been, the Clippers’ ride has been just as bumpy without Leonard. They are 11-11 so far behind Paul George, who has averaged 25.9 points with 7.3 rebounds and 5.1 assists.

While the Lakers defeated the Kings on Tuesday, the Clippers fell to Sacramento, 124-115, on Wednesday as George was given a night for rest after playing in each of the first 21 games this season.

George is expected to return Friday as the Clippers try to end a three-game losing streak. They have also dropped six of their past eight, including four defeats on a just-completed six-game homestand.

The Clippers struggled to match the energy of the Kings, who were playing their sixth game under interim head coach Alvin Gentry.

“They were moving way faster than we were, flying around, and we couldn’t keep up in that third quarter,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said. “So we made some early substitutions, got our younger guys in there. They came in with some fresh legs and played pretty well.”

Terance Mann and Luke Kennard led the Clippers off the bench with 19 points apiece on Wednesday. Jay Scrubb (5 points) played 16 minutes in his 11th career game, while Keon Johnson (2 points, 3 rebounds) played 12 minutes in his third career game.

The Clippers on Friday will be without forward Nicolas Batum, who is in COVID-19 protocol. –