Lakers Could Sign ‘Hardship’ Player After 3 Land in COVID Protocols

Former Laker, and current free-agent, Lance Stephenson

Getty Former Laker, and current free-agent, Lance Stephenson

The Lakers, like many teams around the league, continue to take roster hits thanks to players needing to enter the NBA’s health and safety protocols—just as the team was beginning to get healthy and put together a decent stretch of games.

First Talen Horton-Tucker went into the protocols on Tuesday. Late last night, two more players were added—Dwight Howard and Malik Monk–giving the team three on the list. If all are determined to have COVID-19 and are looking at significant time away from the team, the Lakers will be eligible to sign a new player on a 10-day contract under a special “hardship exemption” granted by the league.

The rule allows a team to bring in a 16th player once four players are injured and determined to be out for a long period. Normally, the players have to miss at least three games for the exemption to kick in, but the three-game wait is waived when it comes to the COVID-19 protocols.

With three players in the protocols and Kendrick Nunn out for at least two more weeks, if not longer, the Lakers would appear to qualify.

Who Could the Lakers Sign with an Exemption?

Naturally, the health of Horton-Tucker, Howard and Monk is the first priority. But the next priority would be which players the Lakers would look at to add to the roster?

The team has been missing a quality veteran defender on the wing as it waits for Trevor Ariza to get healthy, which should happen in the coming days. But there are some players who are unsigned who could fit that need, most notably James Ennis, whom the Lakers nearly signed this summer.

Ennis is a 6-foot-6 veteran journeyman who is from Ventura and played at Cal State Long Beach. He’s also a rugged defender and a decent 3-point shooter who has played for seven teams in seven seasons. This summer, Ennis made headlines when he pleaded with the Lakers to sign him on social media.

The Lakers would have other options, too.

Former Lakers guard Lance Stephenson is making a comeback and playing in the G-League. There would, certainly, be entertainment value in brining back Stephenson, though he can still score and can defend when he is engaged at that end.

The Lakers also could consider a wayward member of their 2020 championship team, Quinn Cook, who was waived in the preseason by Portland. Cook has the advantage of being able to step onto the floor with the Lakers and be familiar with the team’s system under coach Frank Vogel.

The NBA Hardship Rule Has Been Used Often Lately

Several teams have taken advantage of the hardship provision lately, a sign that the league’s progress on keeping COVID-19 out of its locker rooms is not working. The NBA made the decision to postpone two Chicago Bulls games after 10 players landed in COVID-19 protocols, raising the concerns of city officials.

From the lleague’s constitution, here is the provision that allows for hardship signings:

(A team) may substitute a Player in his stead after the following has occurred:

  • (a) each of the three (3) injured or ill Players and the additional injured or ill Player has missed a minimum of three (3) consecutive games due to injury or illness; and
  • (b) the Commissioner’s Office has determined, through an independent physician, if necessary, that at the time the replacement Player is signed, each of the three (3) injured or ill Players on the Member’s Active and/or Inactive List, and the additional injured or ill Player, will continue to be unable to perform playing services due to injury or illness.

The Commissioner, in his sole discretion, may permit a Member to replace additional injured or ill Players on that Member’s Active List or Inactive List.



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