Dwight Howard and Talen Horton-Tucker have cleared the NBA’s health and safety protocols, the Los Angeles Lakers announced on Monday. With their return, the Lakers now have just four players and two coaches in health and safety protocols. They also have two players out with injuries.
Horton-Tucker and Howard were the first two Lakers entered into the protocols, and have now been given the all-clear to return after a week in isolation (Horton-Tucker was reportedly the Lakers’ first positive case):
Both will be available tonight against Phoenix. https://t.co/Q3c7jpB3Ra— Bill Oram (@billoram) December 21, 2021
It sounds like Austin Reaves, Kent Bazemore and Frank Vogel are still in the protocols, but Reaves is at least getting to go home (along with radio analyst and Lakers legend Mychal Thompson):
The Lakers say that Austin Reaves and radio analyst Mychal Thompson are scheduled to fly back to L.A. from Minneapolis today. Frank Vogel and Kent Bazemore are both still in Chicago.— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) December 21, 2021
But Horton-Tucker and Howard returning is great news, and the other good news is that no matter when they and the rest of their teammates can get back on the floor after approximately one week away, the Lakers won’t have to worry about having enough players available for their games.
On Sunday, the NBA and NBPA reached an agreement to allow teams to sign one replacement player for every player that tests positive for COVID. For teams with four or more positive COVID tests like the Lakers, three replacement players are required, not optional.
The Lakers recently signed Isaiah Thomas and Jemerrio Jones as replacement players, but until at least one more of their players exits health and safety protocols alongside Howard and Horton-Tucker — or returns from injury — they’ll need to sign at least one more replacement player to get their active roster to 13 players. It’s an imperfect solution to the very real problems the surge in cases across the league (and country) have created, but the NBA and NBPA were able to agree that this is their solution to it.
It would have made sense for the Lakers to sign a center with Howard out, but assuming Howard’s ready to go when the Lakers play the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday, they’ll probably just stick it out with him and DeAndre Jordan. If they decide they still need more size, Cameron Oliver could be an option. The South Bay Lakers big man is 6’8 and a can play both power forward and center.
The Lakers and Suns will tip-off at 7 p.m. PT on Tuesday.