The Los Angeles Lakers are making a change to their starting lineup, replacing DeAndre Jordan with Dwight Howard. They also get LeBron James back from a short health and safety protocol stint as they take on their Staples Center co-tenants, the L.A. Clippers.
Frank Vogel revealed on Thursday that Howard would be replacing Jordan in the starting lineup, a rare decision and early announcement from the Lakers head coach. In addition, Vogel said that both centers won’t be playing in the same game moving forward, opting to only play one or the other depending on the matchup.
Part of this drastic change could come from the fact that James is back in the lineup earlier than expected. James was ruled out of the Lakers win over the Sacramento Kings due to a positive coronavirus (COVID-19) test, with reports being that he would be out at least 10 days.
However, multiple negative tests over 24 hours apart have cleared James to return to the lineup on Friday night. While the Lakers were able to win in convincing fashion over the Kings, they could not have been looking forward to nearly two more weeks without James.
This means that only Trevor Ariza and Kendrick Nunn have been ruled out, as they have been all season. Anthony Davis has been dealing with a thumb sprain that suffered against the Kings while Avery Bradley has a similar injury, although both are expected to be available.
The Clippers, meanwhile, are without superstar Kawhi Leonard, who tore his ACL in the playoffs last season and is out indefinitely. They are also without veteran Nicolas Batum, who is in the league’s health and safety protocols with an actual positive COVID-19 test.
In Leonard’s absence, Paul George has played like a true superstar, averaging 25.9 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 5.1 assists. He is not shooting with his usual efficiency, but he has been by far the Clippers’ most impactful player.
The Lakers have a chance to secure just their second three-game win streak of the season. Quietly, a win against the Clippers would mean wins in four of their last five contests and five of their last seven since a three-game losing streak in November.
Even without Leonard, the Clippers are not to be taken lightly. They have the NBA’s fourth-best defensive rating and have been competitive in nearly every game they’ve played despite a lackluster offense.
The Lakers can also give their all knowing they have another three days off before their next game against the Boston Celtics on Tuesday.
Lakers (12-11) vs. Clippers (11-11)
7:00 p.m. PT, Dec. 3, 2021
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Russell Westbrook
SG: Wayne Ellington
SF: LeBron James
PF: Anthony Davis
C: Dwight Howard
Key Reserves: Talen Horton-Tucker, Carmelo Anthony, Malik Monk, Rajon Rondo, Austin Reaves, Avery Bradley
Projected Clippers Starting Lineup:
PG: Reggie Jackson
SG: Eric Bledsoe
SF: Paul George
PF: Marcus Morris
C: Ivica Zubac
Key Reserves: Terrence Mann, Luke Kennard, Serge Ibaka, Isaiah Hartenstein