LeBron James out of COVID-19 protocols, cleared to return

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Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, left, gets past to shoot against Detroit Pistons guard Hamidou Diallo, right, during the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, left, gets past to shoot against Detroit Pistons guard Hamidou Diallo, right, during the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — LeBron James has been cleared to return to the Los Angeles Lakers after missing one game under the NBA’s health and safety protocols.

The league said Thursday that James is not positive for COVID-19 despite a series of tests that produced conflicting results earlier this week. Additional testing cleared James to play when the Lakers host the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night.

James got an initial positive test from a sample collected on Monday. The sample was retested twice, producing one positive and one negative result. James underwent additional testing Tuesday, but those tests returned one negative result and one clinically inconclusive result, according to the league.

James said earlier in the season that he is vaccinated. A clear positive test likely would have kept James away from the Lakers for 10 days or more.

James has missed 12 of the Lakers’ 23 games this season, with 10 due to injuries. He also missed one game while serving the first suspension of his 19-year NBA career for an altercation with Detroit’s Isaiah Stewart.

The Lakers are 5-7 without James and 7-4 with him. They began Thursday in sixth place in the Western Conference despite their thoroughly overhauled roster around James and Anthony Davis, along with significant injury problems for several expected regulars.

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