Trevor Ariza has exited the NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols, according to the Lakers’ injury report for their Friday game against the Portland Trail Blazers. The 36-year-old is listed as questionable to play with “return to competition reconditioning.”
With Ariza’s return to the roster, only Lakers veteran Rajon Rondo is the only player remaining in the health and safety protocols, giving the team 17 available players if Ariza is cleared to play, including their replacement players.
On the injury front, while Anthony Davis (left knee MCL sprain) and Kendrick Nunn (right knee bone bruise) both remain out, Austin Reaves and Kent Bazemore — who were held out with return to competition reconditioning after exiting the protocols on Wednesday — are both not listed on the injury report, meaning either could see the court after missing the last several games in COVID-19 isolation.
So, long story short, the Lakers are finally getting healthier, which does mean they will have some decisions to make. Replacement players Darren Collison and Stanley Johnson have both been mainstays in the rotation for the last several games, but are both on the sixth day of their current 10-day contracts, and will spend the seventh day facing the Blazers on Friday. Jemerrio Jones’ own 10-day contract ends on Friday, and he will presumably not be retained, given that he’s been out of the rotation entirely of late.
But with only Rondo remaining in the protocols — and potentially exiting before Collison and Johnson’s contracts are up — the team would not be able to keep them around (barring another player entering the health and safety protocols) because the Lakers currently have the maximum of 15 players under contract. Should they continue to get healthier from the outbreak that has largely crippled them for the last two weeks, they would have to cut someone or make an uneven trade to clear a roster spot or two for Johnson and/or Collison.
The team getting healthier is obviously great news, and will mean we are a bit closer to being able to judge what this roster can do when they’re able to play lineups that make sense more consistently. Reaves and Ariza especially will help in that regard as the team continues to go smaller. But all of their returns also mean that general manager Rob Pelinka could have some tough decisions to make in the days to come, especially if he and the front office have liked anything they’ve seen from Johnson and/or Collison.