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Right when things began to gel together for the Los Angeles Lakers — currently on a three-game winning streak — the NBA’s health and safety protocols burst in on the scene to ruin the fun.
Announced Thursday, per The Athletic / Stadium’s Shams Charania, Lakers guard Russell Westbrook (the third piece of their Big 3) is entering COVID protocols.
All week, the protocols have been poaching players from the Lakers: including guards Talen Horton-Tucker and Malik Monk, along with veteran center Dwight Howard.
Prior to their three-game road trip this week — heading to Dallas first — THT and Howard were both prohibited from traveling with the team after getting placed in protocols.
Horton-Tucker’s initial diagnosis forced the Lakers’ training facilities to shut down on Tuesday and Howard was announced shortly after as another addition to the COVID protocols. However, Malik Monk did travel with the team and was in close proximity with players until he was forced to hop on a plane from Dallas back to LA when the Lakers’ medical staff deemed him as a potential COVID-positive case.
As a result of these absences, head coach Frank Vogel has been experimenting with his starting rotation, which surprisingly paid off on Wednesday night when rookie reserve Austin Reaves hit the game-winning 3-pointer to defeat the Dallas Mavericks, 107-104. The victory elevated Los Angeles to a 16-13 record.
Vogel’s star-centered team struggled to get ahead of the .500 mark within their first 22 games of the season but recently began to pick up some momentum.
Although seen as an inconsistent All-Star at times, Westbrook has been a solid component of the Lakers’ success in these past weeks. Against the Mavericks, Westbrook tallied 23 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.
Injuries have also hindered Vogel’s rotation as marquee forward LeBron James missed roughly 11 games in the team’s first 22 contests to start the season.
NBA players that fail to supply two negative PCR tests after the initial diagnosis of COVID are forced to be isolated from the team for 10 days.
According to our very own Sam Amico, via Hoops Wire, Westbrook’s name has been floated by the Lakers’ front office as a potential trade asset. Russ is averaging 19.6 points, 8.4 assists and 7.8 rebounds on the season.
Charania also announced Thursday that guard Avery Bradley entered the health and safety protocols.
Not since David Stern’s blocking of the Chris Paul trade has the Southland been this deflated by breaking news.
Follow along on Twitter: @AlejandroAveela