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Mavericks’ Luka Doncic out, enters health and safety protocols

Los Angeles Lakers v Dallas Mavericks

DALLAS, TEXAS - DECEMBER 15: Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks works through pregame warm ups before the Dallas Mavericks take on the Los Angeles Lakers at American Airlines Center on December 15, 2021 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

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There had been hope Luka Doncic could return to the Mavericks lineup on Thursday against the Bucks after missing seven games with a sore left ankle.

Instead, he’s the latest NBA player to enter health and safety protocols, the team announced. Guard Trey Burke also entered protocols, according to the team.

That has Doncic out for the Mavericks’ Christmas Day game against the Jazz, taking the air out of the final game on the NBA’s slate on its showcase day. Doncic, who is vaccinated, will have to have two negative tests in 24 hours to return to the team (it’s technically possible that happens by Christmas, but highly unlikely).

Burke, who is not vaccinated, will need to have five consecutive negative tests before returning.

The Mavericks now have six players in health and safety protocols, but they have signed enough hardship replacement players that they are not at risk of having games postponed.

The league has had more than 100 players go in and out of health and safety protocols this month. That has forced a rash of 10-day hardship replacement signings around the league, and after Christmas the NBA will increase both testing and put mask-wearing rules in place.

As he did last season, Doncic has gotten off to an unimpressive start by his high standards. He’s still scoring 25.6 points with 8 rebounds and 8.5 assists a game, but those numbers and his efficiency are down from previous seasons (he is shooting 32.5% from 3). Doncic admitted he needs to focus more on his conditioning but he was rounding into form before ankle and knee issues slowed him.

Now COVID will slow him for 10 days or so.