CHICAGO – Coach Frank Vogel and wing Kent Bazemore are now in the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols, reducing the Lakers’ roster to just 10 healthy players without two front-of-the-bench coaches ahead of their game with the Chicago Bulls on Sunday afternoon.
Assuming the Lakers can play the game as scheduled, lead assistant David Fizdale will assume head coaching duties. It’s less clear what can be done about the battered roster with nearly half of the players unavailable and seemingly on track for lengthy quarantines.
Kendrick Nunn tested out of the team’s protocols, but he is still not healed from a bone bruise in his right knee that has held him out all season.
The announcement came Sunday morning as it appeared the NBA was careening toward a breaking point: Significant numbers of positive tests have decimated rosters not only for the Lakers, but in Sacramento, Brooklyn, Cleveland, Golden State, Philadelphia and plenty of other markets.
Several teams could fail to meet the minimum of eight healthy players on Sunday evening – potentially even the Lakers themselves if any more positive tests arise.
The list of players in protocols: Bazemore, Talen-Horton Tucker, Dwight Howard, Malik Monk, Avery Bradley and Austin Reaves. The Lakers were already without assistant Phil Handy on the bench, and have also had to quarantine team broadcasters Bill Macdonald and Mychal Thompson during the road trip. As of Sunday morning, Macdonald had tested out of protocols.
The team also learned Saturday that Anthony Davis will likely miss at least four weeks with a left MCL sprain, meaning their depth is further hampered. Trevor Ariza was available to suit up in Minnesota but the team decided not to play him to ease him into his first action of the season; it’s unclear whether the lack of depth changes that thinking.
While the Lakers still (for now) can field All Star-level players in LeBron James and Russell Westbrook, they’ve had to supplement their rotation by calling up two-way contract players Chaundee Brown and Jay Huff from the G League, and signing Isaiah Thomas to a 10-day contract via hardship waiver.
By virtue of their outbreak, the Lakers are subject to no fewer than two coronavirus tests a day, which players and staff have acknowledged as frustrating. By nature of their three-game road trip, the team has been spread across the country in quarantine in Los Angeles, Dallas, Minnesota and now Chicago.
The Lakers have declined to share other potentially sensitive health information about those stuck in protocols such as who, or how many people, may be experiencing symptoms. The entire playing roster and traveling staff is believed to be vaccinated.