Westbrook available, DeRozan cleared, numbers high elsewhere

National Sports
Russell Westbrook

Los Angeles Lakers’ Russell Westbrook (0) celebrates after sinking a basket as fans look on in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Dallas, Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Russell Westbrook had a short stay in the NBA’s health and safety protocols, though the numbers kept rising elsewhere.

The Los Angeles Lakers guard was cleared to return Friday, as was DeMar DeRozan, leaving the Chicago Bulls with seven players in protocols.

The Lakers announced a few hours before their game in Minnesota that Westbrook would be available. He had been placed in protocols Thursday and was listed as out in the injury report earlier Friday, though a player can be cleared by returning two consecutive negative tests in a 24-hour span.

That still left the Lakers with five players unavailable because of the protocols and they brought in a reinforcement with the signing of Isaiah Thomas, the former All-Star guard trying to get back into the league.

The Lakers are scheduled to play Sunday in Chicago, which would be the Bulls’ next game after they had two postponed because 10 players were in protocols. That number is now seven after DeRozan joined Coby White and Javonte Green in being cleared. All-Star Zach LaVine was among the seven who remain in protocols.

Teams need eight players to start a game. The Brooklyn Nets were barely above that when seven of their players, including James Harden, were placed in protocols. In need of help, they decided Friday to bring back Kyrie Irving for road games, even though he is unable to play at home because of his refusal to be vaccinated as mandated for athletes in New York City.

Orlando and Sacramento continued to play through numerous absences, while the Boston Celtics were without five players, including Al Horford and Grant Williams, on Friday against Golden State. Their next opponent, the New York Knicks, also reached five when Immanuel Quickley was added to their report.

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