THE Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers restart their abbreviated NBA campaign Thursday in Kissimmee, Fla., in a key Western Conference matchup that has major playoff ramifications.
The game will be the first between the two clubs in more than four months. A positive coronavirus test of Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert locked down the league before a road game in Oklahoma City on March 11.
Three days before, the Lakers beat the Clippers 112-103 for their first win in three meetings between the clubs this season.
The restart has created its own unique challenges for the Lakers and Clippers inside the so-called bubble at the Walt Disney World Resort.
The conference-leading Lakers are favored over the second-place Clippers, who are 5 1/2 games back in the standings as they begin an eight-game sprint for seeding before the playoffs begin.
LeBron James said he’s ready.
“I’ll be as locked in as I can be under the circumstances,” said James on Tuesday. “I won’t cheat my teammates; I won’t cheat our fans and I won’t cheat myself. I’ll be ready to go.”
Whether All-Star forward and leading scorer Anthony Davis is ready isn’t clear. Davis got poked in his right eye during Saturday’s scrimmage against the Orlando Magic. He did not play in the Lakers’ scrimmage against the Washington Wizards on Monday and sat out practice Tuesday.
“He’s day to day and while he’s still dealing with discomfort, there is some concern that he could potentially not play Thursday,” said Lakers coach Frank Vogel, according to the Orange County Register. “But we’re hopeful that he does, and we’ll see how that plays out.”
Davis is averaging a team-high 26.4 points and 9.4 rebounds per game in 55 contests.
The Clippers might go without guard Lou Williams, who is officially a game-time decision but is quarantined after being photographed at an Atlanta strip club during an excused absence.
Williams, who said he visited the establishment for food, is also likely out for Saturday’s contest against the New Orleans Pelicans.
“We know that a lot of teams have had their guys throughout. We haven’t,” said Clippers coach Doc Rivers. “We’ve had up to five of our key players out – six, at one point. So, it’s not been the way we planned it when we got here, but things don’t go as planned all the time and you’ve got to adjust, and I think our team is doing that.”
Forward-center Montrezl Harrell, who left the facility July 17 for an emergency family matter, is officially out.
Guard Patrick Beverly, who also left Orlando for a family matter, rejoined the club last weekend, as did center Ivica Zubac and guard Landry Shamet, both of whom had tested positive recently for coronavirus. All three could be available against the Lakers.
Both teams also made additions during the break. Guards Dion Waiters and JR Smith will replace guard Avery Bradley, who opted out weeks due to coronavirus concerns, and guard Rajon Rondo is recovering from surgery on a broken thumb.
The Clippers added forward-center Joakim Noah during the NBA stoppage. Noah is listed as a game-time decision.