Los Angeles Lakers' Russell Westbrook plays after clearing protocol; Isaiah Thomas has 19 in season debut

MINNEAPOLIS -- Lakers guard Russell Westbrook tested out of the NBA's COVID-19 protocols and played in Los Angeles' 110-92 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday.

Westbrook said he flew from Dallas to Minneapolis on Friday and arrived approximately six hours before game time. When he got to the team hotel, he had to test again and received treatment before changing clothes and boarding the team bus for the arena.

He finished with 14 points on 4-for-7 shooting, four rebounds and three assists and kept his streak intact of appearing in every game for the Lakers this season.

Westbrook was placed in the health and safety protocols following the Lakers' 107-104 overtime road win over the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday. For a player to be cleared from the protocols, he must return two negative tests 24 hours apart. Westbrook said he returned three negative tests before flying to Minneapolis.

"It's craziness," Lakers coach Frank Vogel said before Friday's game when asked about his players going in and out of the protocols. "I don't know what the answer is, but it's not like anything I've seen before or dealt with before as a coach, coming into games and guys just in and out of the lineups like this."

The lone bright spot for the Lakers against the Timberwolves was the play of point guard Isaiah Thomas, who signed a 10-day contract Friday and led Los Angeles with 19 points in 22 minutes. Thomas joined the roster under the hardship exemption, which allows a team to exceed the 15-player maximum. Los Angeles is without several players because of injuries and the NBA's health and safety protocols.

"The dopest moment for me? When I checked in the game and they really cheered for me," Thomas said afterward. "And this is an away game. Those moments mean more to me than anything, just because people respect what I do and people respect the grind that I'm on. And I think me being 5-9 helps. Like, I'm the normal person's height, so people cheer for me just because of that."

Thomas, 32, last played in the NBA during the 2020-21 season while on a 10-day contract with the New Orleans Pelicans. Thomas, who played for USA Basketball in November, dropped 42 points in his G League debut Wednesday.

Avery Bradley, Talen Horton-Tucker and Dwight Howard missed Friday's game and remained in the league's health and safety protocols. Vogel was unsure if any of them would be available Sunday when the Lakers finish their road trip against the Chicago Bulls. The Timberwolves were without Anthony Edwards and Taurean Prince, who also are in the protocols, Minnesota announced.

Malik Monk was cleared to fly from Los Angeles to Minneapolis to join the Lakers for Friday night's game. Ultimately, he was not cleared to play, sources told ESPN.

"I mean, look, it's very detailed, nuanced and complex, the protocols," Vogel said. "And the league takes each case, literally case by case, and they measure in all the factors of the testing and all the medical factors. And you can be cleared for one thing and not another. For instance, he was cleared to travel with us but was not cleared to be out of the protocols just yet. So that didn't happen. We thought we were heading in that direction, but it didn't happen."

The Lakers announced that Kendrick Nunn, who has been out all season with a bone bruise in his knee, also has entered the health and safety protocols. Rookie Austin Reaves, the hero of the team's overtime win in Dallas at the start of the trip, has entered the protocols as well and was out for the Wolves game. Reaves traveled to Minneapolis on the team charter Thursday but registered a positive test Friday.

Vogel would not identify which Lakers players were experiencing symptoms and which weren't, but he spoke to the frustration his team has felt from the process.

"I think there's just a sentiment around the world -- especially in sports -- if the symptoms aren't that bad, why are we being held out? But obviously, everybody understands why," Vogel said. "These are the best competitors in the world. They want to be in there. So if there's frustration, it's centered around wanting to be in there."

Vogel said that some Lakers players have yet to receive a booster shot for COVID-19.

Los Angeles already arranged for two-way players Chaundee Brown and Jay Huff to join the team on the trip and announced Friday that Trevor Ariza, who has been out all season following ankle surgery in the preseason, had been upgraded to questionable for the Wolves game. He was in uniform just in case the Lakers ran out of eligible players to finish the contest.

"Hopefully, we get past it soon and we can really get to who we are as a team," LeBron James said after the loss. "What we are capable of, who we're on the floor with and not having guys in and out so much."