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Lakers avenge loss to Kings with LeBron James out due to COVID-19 health protocols

Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook passes the ball over Sacramento Kings center Richaun Holmes
Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook passes the ball over Sacramento Kings center Richaun Holmes during the first quarter of the Lakers win over the Kings in Sacramento.
(Randall Benton/Associated Press)
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LeBron James entered the NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols and missed the Lakers’ 117-92 win against the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night.

According to NBA rules, vaccinated players, like James, enter the protocols either after a positive test or after inconclusive results. According to the protocols, a vaccinated player can return if he tests negative for the virus on consecutive tests 24 hours apart or if it’s been 10 days without symptoms.

Anthony Davis said he spoke with James and that his teammate told him he was “asymptomatic.”

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“It was something that was unexpected for sure,” Davis said after scoring 25 points. “Found out this morning. Did more testing and we didn’t really hear anything afterwards. Woke up from a nap and any media outlet that covers anything had it on and said that he was in the health and safety protocols. ... He’s out how many days we don’t know. It all depends on his situation. ... He said he was good. I think he’s asymptomatic, which is a good sign. But we want to make sure that he gets back. Health is most important.”

The Lakers, who improved to 5-7 without James this season, play six times in the next two weeks, including their first matchup with the Clippers this season Friday at Staples Center.

LaMelo and Lonzo Ball will meet on the court Monday when the Bulls host the Hornets in a game that goes beyond the brothers.

After losing to the Kings in triple overtime Friday at Staples Center, the Lakers came here looking for payback. They got their message across by playing tremendous defense in the second half and letting that carry them. The Lakers outscored the Kings 67-33 in the half to win their second straight game.

When the Lakers got down by 14 early in the third quarter, they finally came with the right approach. They went on a 35-8 run, outscored the Kings 37-15 in the quarter and opened an 87-74 lead entering the fourth.

James said on media day in September that he received the COVID-19 vaccination after being “very skeptical.”

“But after doing my research and things of that nature, I felt like it was best suited, not only for me but for my family and friends,” James said in September. “And that’s why I decided to do it.”

Lakers forward Anthony Davis shoots over Sacramento Kings forward Chimezie Metu.
Lakers forward Anthony Davis shoots over Sacramento Kings forward Chimezie Metu during the first quarter in Sacramento on Tuesday.
(Randall Benton / Associated Press)

Before the season, Lakers vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka said that all of their players would be “deemed fully vaccinated” at the start of the season.

The NBA and players union have recommended booster shots for all players and coaches. NBA doctors sent a memo to teams with results of leaguewide antibody testing from the preseason. Lakers coach Frank Vogel said and he and Pelinka and the team’s medical staff have had that discussion with the players “just to encourage and recommend the booster shot and the values that come with it.”

James has played in just 11 of the Lakers’ 23 games, also missing one game because of a suspension, two games because of right ankle soreness and eight because of an abdominal strain.

The Lakers put on a strong defensive performance during part of a win over the Pistons, but it’s troubling the team hasn’t sustained that effort.

No one knows how long James will be out of action this time. The Lakers also played without starting guard Avery Bradley because of a thumb injury.

“Every year teams have main guys out for stretches,” Vogel said. “You have to win as many games as you can when that’s the case and when they are all healthy you have to have hopefully enough time for them to build their cohesion that’s necessary to win big time, and that hasn’t been the case for us thus far this season. But there’s no reason to believe that it won’t be.”

Times staff writer Dan Woike contributed to this report from Los Angeles.


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