The NBA machine is churning forward even as record numbers of players test positive for COVID-19. The league and players union came to terms on Sunday to require teams that have outbreaks of the virus to sign “replacement players” in order to prevent postponement of games. The Los Angeles Lakers are among the teams most affected by this new rule.
The Lakers have had several players enter the health and safety protocols, including Avery Bradley, Kent Bazemore, Dwight Howard, Malik Monk, Austin Reaves and Talen Horton-Tucker. LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and Kendrick Nunn have all had false positive tests. Nunn and Anthony Davis are out due to knee injuries, as well. Head coach Frank Vogel and assistant Phil Handy are both also in the health and safety protocol, leaving David Fizdale in charge on the sidelines.
According to reporting from Shams Charania of the Athletic, teams that have four or more players out due to the COVID protocols are required to make three hardship signings.
We will be keeping track of the Lakers’ related roster moves in this story:
Isaiah Thomas Update (12/26/2021):
Shams Charania of The Athletic has reported that the Lakers will not be giving Isaiah Thomas an additional 10-day contract. Thomas was initially signed when it was expected that Westbrook would miss a decent amount of time due to being put in health and safety protocols. However, Westbrook was released nearly the same day, with Collison’s signing making IT even more pointless to have on the roster.
Darren Collison, G, and Stanley Johnson, F (12/24/21)
On Friday, the day before the Lakers’ Christmas Day matchup against the Nets, the Lakers signed Darren Collison and Stanley Johnson to 10-day, hardship exception deals. The Lakers have infamously been looking at Collison for almost two years now as they nearly signed him out of retirement during the 2019-20 season. Johnson was actually with the South Bay Lakers for most of this season before he signed another 10-day deal before this current one with the Chicago Bulls.
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) December 24, 2021
Mac McClung, G
This isn’t a signing made by the Lakers, as the Chicago Bulls have taken yet another white guard from the South Bay Lakers. They’ll be signing him to a 10-day, hardship exception in response to players being in protocols (per Shams Charania of The Athletic).
The Chicago Bulls are signing guard Mac McClung to a 10-day hardship deal, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium. McClung went to training camp with the Lakers and has played for their G League South Bay affiliate.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) December 21, 2021
Isaiah Thomas, G
A former short-term Laker, Thomas is back in the purple and gold hoping to revamp a career that has been derailed by injuries. The point guard has already played in two games since signing with the Lakers, including a 19-point debut against the Wolves. More about the IT signing here.
Jemerrio Jones, F
Jemerrio Jones has also been signed to a 10-day hardship exception contract by the Lakers out of the G League, according to The Athletic. The 6-5 forward known for his rebounding played six games for the Lakers in the 2018-19 season and has spent much of his career with the South Bay Lakers (though he is being signed out of Wisconsin in this go-around). Jones is now the eighth player this season to sign with the Lakers for at least a second time.
Mason Jones, G
In a more unpredictable move, the Lakers are reportedly signing Mason Jones from the South Bay Lakers to a two-way contract. The team already has the two designated two-way spots taken, meaning one of Jay Huff or Chaundee Brown must be waived to sign Jones if reports are true. Brown played 15 minutes in the Lakers’ loss to the Bulls while Huff made a brief five-minute cameo.
The 23-year-old Jones played 32 games with the Houston Rockets and Philadelphia 76ers last season.
Among new rule changes during the league-wide COVID scare is that two-way contracted players no longer have a maximum number of days they can spend with the parent team.