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Around the NBA: LeBron Enters COVID Protocol; Kemba Out of Rotation; Jokic’s Return ends Denve

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James has entered the NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols and will miss Tuesday’s game against the Sacramento Kings, the team announced. James, who said at the team’s media day in late September that he is vaccinated, could miss as many as 10 days per the league’s health and safety protocols. He could return sooner if he returns at least two consecutive negative COVID tests collected at least 24 hours apart, per league guidelines. The former MVP has missed 11 games in the on-going season, with Lakers in seventh place in the Western Conference with an 11-11 record. He missed two games with right ankle soreness, eight games due to a strained stomach muscle and one game suspension, the first of his 19-year career, after the Detroit scuffle with Isaiah Stewart on November 21.

LeBron James has entered the league's health and safety protocols and will miss tonight's game vs. Kings — Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) November 30, 2021

WALKER FROZEN OUT OF ROTATION New York Knicks guard, Kemba Walker is out of rotation at the Big Apple franchise, according to coach Tom Thibodeau. Thibodeau told reporters that he planned to start Alec Burks in place of Walker after the Knicks beat the Hawks last weekend with Walker sidelined. “It’s a tough decision to make, but you always have to do what you think is best for the team,” Thibodeau said. “I view Kemba as a starter, and so it’d be tough to play three small guards together. I gave it consideration, and I’ve got great respect for who Kemba is as a person and all he’s accomplished in this league.” The former Celtic player started 18 of the first 19 games of the season for New York before he was out due to rest for the team’s matchup against the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday. Walker, a four-time All-Star, is averaging a career-low 11.7 points (on 42.9% shooting), 3.1 assists and 2.6 rebounds over 24.5 minutes during his first season with the Knicks.

Tom Thibodeau says, at the moment, PG Kemba Walker is not part of the NYK rotation. Says he views Walker as a starter & doesn’t see good fit for Walker off bench. “I have great respect for who Kemba is as a person… & all he's accomplished in this league." — Ian Begley (@IanBegley) November 29, 2021

JOKIC’S RETURN HELP DENVER END SKID Reigning league MVP Nikola Jokic returned from a four-game injury absence to account for 24 points, a game-high 15 rebounds and a team-high seven assists as the Denver Nuggets defeated the host Miami Heat 120-111 on Monday night. Jokic, who had been out with a sprained right wrist, made 9 of 14 shots from the floor and 5 of 6 on free throws as Denver snapped a season-worst six-game losing streak. This was the first game played between the two teams since the host Nuggets beat Miami on Nov. 8. Jokic and Miami’s Markieff Morris were involved in a skirmish in that game. Morris (neck injury) has yet to play as a result of that altercation, and Jokic was booed throughout Monday’s game.

Nikola Jokic vs the Heat: 24 PTS 15 REB 7 AST 9-14 FG He is averaging 26/14/6 on 60/40/75% this season — career highs in RPG, FG% and 3P%. — StatMuse (@statmuse) November 30, 2021

PORTER JR. TO UNDERGO SURGERY Denver Nuggets Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. is expected to miss the remainder of the season due to back surgery. Porter has a history of back injuries. He was limited to only three games during his freshman season at Missouri because he suffered a back injury that required surgery. He then underwent a second back surgery following the 2018 NBA Draft, sidelining him for his entire rookie season. He bounced back strong, posting 9.3 points and 4.7 rebounds over 55 games (eight starts) in 2019-20. He was one of the league’s breakout players in 2020-21, finishing third in Most Improved Player voting with averages of 19.0 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. Porter had a nerve issue that could keep him out for the remainder of the season. He hasn’t played since Nov. 6 and has appeared in just nine games this season.

Sources: Denver forward Michael Porter Jr. is expected to miss the remainder of the season due to back surgery. Tough blow, but with Porter’s five-year extension kicking in next season, he and the Nuggets take big-picture approach to his health. — Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) November 29, 2021
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