James Harden, Paul Millsap and Jevon Carter have been cleared from the NBA's health and safety protocols, and the Brooklyn Nets are expecting to have enough players for their Christmas Day game against the Los Angeles Lakers despite having three more players enter the protocols.
Nets coach Steve Nash said that while Harden, Millsap and Carter have been cleared, Cam Thomas, David Duke Jr. and Kessler Edwards have entered the protocols. Despite the fact that the Nets have not been able to practice as a group this week due to a COVID-19 outbreak that has seen as many as 13 Nets enter the protocols since Dec. 13, Nash said he expects the Christmas game with the Lakers (8 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN) to still be on from the Nets' perspective.
Nash added that he did not expect any other Nets currently in the protocols to be cleared in time to play Saturday. Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, LaMarcus Aldridge, DeAndre' Bembry, Bruce Brown, James Johnson and Day'Ron Sharpe went into the health and safety protocols from Dec. 14 to Dec. 18.
"We are not expecting anyone else to come out of protocols [in time for the Christmas Day game], but it is possible," Nash said Thursday morning. "I think you have to do two negative tests 24 hours apart. I guess that gives us to tonight and tomorrow night to return two negatives, but we are not predicting anybody to come out necessarily."
The Nets plan to fly to Los Angeles on Friday with at least the required minimum of eight players to play in a game.
"We have enough to play," Nash said. "I think we signed four G League guys. So we have plenty to get to eight."
Millsap was the first Nets player to enter the health and safety protocols on Dec. 13. Harden, Johnson, Carter, Brown, Bembry and Aldridge followed on Dec. 14. Decimated by COVID-19, the Nets opted to reverse course and let Irving return as a part-time player for road games only. But then Irving, Durant and Sharpe entered the protocols on Saturday.
Nash said that once Irving clears the protocols, the point guard still has to ramp up to play in an NBA game since he has not practiced regularly with the team since early October during the first week of the team's training camp in San Diego. The Nets decided during the preseason to not have Irving be with the team due to the fact that he could not play in home games due to New York City's vaccination mandate for players in New York to play at Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden.
"I think he has to do some sort of ramp-up, some sort of playing," Nash said of what Irving will need to do before returning to action. "When you're at home working out by yourself, it's a lot different. It depends on what you're doing, but usually individual workouts are half-court and 1-on-0, one-on-one, maybe he gets a little bit of pickup basketball, but that probably was out the window once everyone starts playing again [during their season].
"So there is, I think, a ramp-up, an opportunity for him to play a little bit whether it's with our group or the stay-ready group whenever he's out of protocols. There's a ramp-up for sure."
"We had to shut everything down just out of precaution," Nash said of the Nets this week. "But once we got back to a cadence, healthy guys could do 1-on-0 workouts but no group workouts. It basically just started up yesterday, and today, guys are back on the court. And in isolation.
"It's tricky. We haven't been able to do a lot, but we do what we can and we will continue to adapt as the rules and mandates come in."
Nash said that the three latest Nets to enter the protocols -- Thomas, Duke and Edwards -- have been "largely asymptomatic" or experienced few symptoms. Nash also said the team wasn't certain if center Nic Claxton, who took a spill and hurt his wrist against the Philadelphia 76ers on Dec. 16 and did not play in the Nets' last game against the Orlando Magic on Dec. 18, will be available to play this weekend. Shooter Joe Harris, who underwent ankle surgery, is progressing but will not return on this trip, Nash said.