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COVID protocols update: Harden, LaVine cleared and can play; Beal, KAT enter

Corey Robinson and Kurt Helin give an update on the NBA's current COVID-19 outbreak and why pausing the season is actually not the right move for the league.

The NBA’s Christmas Day slate looks a little more interesting after today.

That’s because the Brooklyn Nets — who have had their last three games postponed because they could not dress eight healthy players — said that not only would they be able to field a team on Christmas to take on the Lakers, they would have at least one of their big three healthy in James Harden.

Here are some of the big names and roster moves tied to COVID protocols around the NBA Thursday:

• Nets clear James Harden, Paul Millsap to play. The Brooklyn Nets will not take the court Thursday night in Portland because the league had postponed this game a couple of days ago when 10 Nets players were in protocol. However, on Thursday, Steve Nash told reporters that James Harden, Paul Millsap, and Jevon Carter were out of protocol and could play Christmas Day in Los Angeles against the Lakers.

However, three more Nets players entered protocols.

That’s one star back. Kevin Durant entered health and safety protocols on Dec. 18, which will be a week before the Saturday game. While the NBA quarantine period for vaccinated players is 10 days (meaning KD would miss the Christmas game) they can return earlier if they have two consecutive negative tests within 24 hours. Nash said he did not expect other players to clear protocols before Saturday.

Kyrie Irving is unvaccinated, which means he has to quarantine for 10 days and produce five negative tests before practicing with the team again. He will not play against the Lakers. Los Angeles will be without one of its stars, Anthony Davis, due to a sprained knee.

• Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns enters protocols. Karl-Anthony Towns is serious about the vaccine.

“I’ve gotten the vaccine, as a matter of fact I’ve also gotten the booster as well,” Towns told NBC Sports last month. “I am a fan of the vaccines having seen what COVID has done to my family and to me personally. I can’t stress enough for people to mask up, be safe, and to get your body prepared for the world we live in right now.

“It comes from a place, I don’t want people to go through what I went through.”

Despite all his precautions, KAT entered protocols again on Thursday. The Timberwoves had two recent games against the Mavericks, a team with an outbreak of the virus.

• Unvaccinated Bradley Beal enters protocols. Beal was one of the very public players about not getting vaccinated, which means he will be out longer after this positive test. He will have to produce five negative tests and be out a minimum of 10 days before returning to practices.

Beal and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, another Wizards starter, are in the protocols.

This is not the first time Beal had COVID, he was set to play with Team USA in the Tokyo Olympics but a positive test had him leaving the team, he admitted after the fact.

• In Chicago, Zach LaVine and other Bulls are out of protocols. It was a full practice again today in Chicago because not only did All-Star Zach LaVine get released from protocols, so did Ayo Dosunmu, Troy Brown Jr., Alize Johnson, Matt Thomas and Devon Dotson.

The Bulls game last night was postponed because the Raptors could not field a team. Chicago is now off until Sunday when they host the Pacers. Here were LaVine’s comments, via KC Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.

Hopefully we have herd immunity coming back and we won’t have any more guys go down in the later months,” LaVine said following Thursday’s practice at the Advocate Center. “I’m just thankful everybody is OK and everybody’s families are OK. Now we can get things rolling again as a full group.”

• Good news for the Knicks. New York is going to have another key player on Christmas Day, R.J. Barrett has cleared protocols.