LeBron James is expected to return to the Los Angeles Lakers‘ lineup Friday against the Los Angeles Clippers after being in the NBA‘s health and safety protocols since Tuesday. James returned two negative PCR tests within 24 hours, and has been deemed eligible to play again by the league.
Per the NBA’s statement:
“Following two negative PCR tests conducted more than 24 hours apart, Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James has cleared the NBA’s Health & Safety Protocols. 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. Additional testing confirmed that he is not a positive case.
“In accordance with the Protocols, and the consistent testing practice that has been in place since the 2019-20 Season Restart in Orlando, the sample that produced the initial positive test was re-run twice and returned one negative and one positive result on two different PCR instruments. As a result, James underwent additional testing on November 30, with one test returning a negative result and a second test resulting in a clinically inconclusive result.”
James revealed in September that he is vaccinated against COVID-19. It was originally reported that LeBron could miss several games, but after registering two negative COVID-19 tests, the missed game against the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday will be the only one he’ll be sidelined for.
This is positive news for the Lakers, as James has already missed a substantial amount of time this season due to issues with both his right ankle and an abdominal strain. He has missed 11 of the Lakers’ first 22 games, including a one-game suspension due to an altercation with Detroit Pistons‘ Isaiah Stewart. Getting him back in the lineup so quickly will boost a Lakers squad that hasn’t gotten out to the greatest start this season, especially considering how integral LeBron is when he’s on the floor.
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When he has been in the lineup, James has been the best player on the floor for the Lakers. He averages a team-high 25.8 points per game and the Lakers are 7-4 in games he’s played. That doesn’t mean he’s been immune to the effects of aging, though. James has made only 48.4 percent of his field goal attempts this season, the lowest mark for him since the 2006-07 campaign. He is still adjusting to the presence of Russell Westbrook, who is still trying to find his footing on this Lakers squad.
The Lakers sit at No. 6 in the Western Conference right now with a 12-11 record, but with James coming back sooner than expected, L.A. can begin to make up ground after a shaky start to the season.