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Malik Monk shines for Lakers after enduring COVID protocol chaos

Lakers guard Malik Monk shoots against the Brooklyn Nets in the first half of a 122-115 Christmas loss at Crypto.com Arena.
Lakers guard Malik Monk shoots against the Brooklyn Nets in the first half of a 122-115 Christmas loss at Crypto.com Arena. Monk scored 20 points off the bench.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
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At long last, Lakers sharpshooter Malik Monk was cleared out of the NBA’s heath and safety protocols and able to play.

The ups and downs of the testing, Monk being cleared and then not cleared, were confusing for him. But once he was able to take the court Saturday at Crypto.com Arena, Monk was a bright spot for the Lakers during their 122-115 loss to the Brooklyn Net in one of the NBA’s marquee Christmas Day games.

Monk had missed the five previous games while in the protocols, but the reserve guard still looked sharp.

The geriatric Lakers are counting on LeBron James for too much, and it’s going to cost them big if Russell Westbrook and crew can’t do more.

He scored 20 points off the bench on eight-for-13 shooting. He scored 10 points in the fourth quarter when the Lakers rallied from 23 points down and tied the score late in the game. He made all four of his shots and both of his three-pointers in the quarter.

“Just to get to the rim. I tried to create for others too,” Monk said. “We had a little misunderstanding with what we were doing on the offensive end and felt like the ball wasn’t moving enough. I tried to come in and get to the rim and try to mix everything up.”

Monk’s journey through the COVID-19 protocols forced him out almost two weeks. Asked to explain how it went down, from being cleared to not being cleared, Monk tried his best.

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“I really don’t know what happened, man,” he said. “I don’t know. Yeah, I don’t know. Thought I was cleared. Said I wasn’t and then just kept switching back and forth. I don’t know.”

Monk was asked if he flew to Dallas with the Lakers on Dec. 14 to start a three-game trip, which would have meant he was cleared to play against the Mavericks on Dec. 15.

“Yep,” he said.

Malik Monk celebrates after making a three-pointer against the Nets on Saturday.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

But once in Dallas, Monk tested positive and was placed in the protocols. He didn’t fly back to Los Angeles right away.

Before the Lakers flew to Minnesota for a game on Dec. 17, Monk had been cleared and flew there with the team.

But once in Minnesota, Monk tested positive and was placed in the protocols again.

“Yeah,” Monk said, “I was in Minnesota for five days.”

Monk eventually flew back to Los Angeles on Dec. 21 but wasn’t cleared to play until Christmas. Once he did return to the court, Monk gave the Lakers a big lift, even if it didn’t result in a win.

“For him to be able to do that, he really gave us a huge, huge boost tonight,” said Lakers assistant coach David Fizdale, who is the interim coach while Frank Vogel is in theprotocols. “So, credit to him.”

The geriatric Lakers are counting on LeBron James for too much, and it’s going to cost them big if Russell Westbrook and crew can’t do more.

Johnson plays strong defense

One day after the Lakers signed forward Stanley Johnson to a 10-day contract using the NBA’s hardship exception provisions, all they asked of him was to spend time defending Brooklyn’s James Harden.

Now, Harden is one of the NBA’s most lethal weapons, and he showed that by finishing with 36 points.

But Johnson, playing his first NBA game since May, made Harden work for his points when the 6-foot-7 forward was asked to guard him.

“I like to say that I can play defense at a high level,” said Johnson, who’s played with three teams over six seasons. “I gotta be [smarter] with the fouls. I’m very confident in that part of my game. I’ve been doing that for a while. I’m pretty strong. It’s just doing my job, like another day in the office.”

Johnson added seven points and was a plus-six in the plus-minus department during his 27 minutes 25 seconds of playing time.

“I kinda just like let it happen,” said the 25-year-old former Santa Ana Mater Dei standout. “I was in quarantine a day ago, like 36 hours ago ... and I have barely time to do anything and they throw me in the game and I play a lot of minutes. I’m just, one, blessed and grateful to even be here right now and just learn as much as I can to be as useful as I can for this team.”

Also

The Lakers placed Rajon Rondo in the protocols. ... Isaiah Thomas will not get a second 10-day contract, according to a source with knowledge of the situation not authorized to speak publicly.


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