It’s the kind of news that could have made even a young Russell Westbrook pull his head out of his textbook after learning on the eve of a big game in Los Angeles that the most famous player will be reinstated in the mix.

LeBron James’s quick return to the Lakers lineup from NBA protocols for COVID-19 after a false positive test is the kind of big deal that raises an already big game – even if it wasn’t always so for one of the stars native playing in it.

Growing up in Los Angeles, Westbrook did not spend much time thinking about the heated NBA rivalry in his hometown. It wasn’t just because the Lakers were the city’s established champions and the Clippers were mostly a punch bag.

No, there were more important rivalries to be addressed.

“I was looking at my grades as my rivalry,” he said Thursday. “… I against biology. Chemistry. That’s what I was worried about. “

Things change, whether it is a matter of science or which franchises matter. After the recent free agent and trade draws, there is no doubt that the Lakers-Clippers rivalry is healthy in Friday’s first game between the two this season – even if one team is healthier than the other.

Here comes James after numerous rounds of negative tests have cleared him up and ready to play after losing the team win Tuesday in Sacramento.

He will be on the field with a Lakers team that hopes to be on a rising trajectory after winning consecutive games with a lineup that is getting healthier after a tough start. Guardian Avery Bradley will avoid surgery on his thumb, while veteran striker Trevor Ariza, whom coach Frank Vogel said was the key to the Lakers’ small ball formations, was a participant in his first practice since the start of the camp. coach. Bradley will be able to play with his thumb on a splint while Ariza is still doing contactless work.

Although the Lakers crawl towards full power, the squad continues to make changes, with Vogel saying Thursday that he will replace center DeAndre Jordan with Dwight Howard in the Lakers starting lineup on Friday against the Clippers.

If this change is not a big enough surprise for the Clippers, James’s presence on the field will surely change the plans. Thought to be out for at least a handful of games after testing positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday, James’ results resurfaced with conflicting results. He remained on the NBA health and safety protocols until Thursday after he passed two negative tests with more than 24 hours distance.

With Kawhi Leonard recovering from off-season knee surgery, the game will not have all of its available star power at hand. With Nicolas Batum still on health and safety protocols, the Clippers are without one of their sticky boys on their roster – a wild wing they could have thrown against Anthony Davis or James.

In trying to take the Clippers to next season, Paul George has had one of the best starts of a season in his career – averaging 25.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.1 assists. George and Westbrook, former Oklahoma City teammates, are still close, Westbrook said. Their children go to the same school and they both see each other a lot at the time of dropout.

Friday will be the first taste of local rivalry for Westbrook, though it is said he was interested in seeing him from Leonard’s side before the Clippers reached George. Westbrook did not comment on the matter Thursday, largely by asking questions about his disregard for anonymous sources speaking on his behalf.

“I never sit down and call someone,” Westbrook finally said. “I sit back and wait and see if anyone wants to play with me, then calm down. Those conversations happen. But I keep those private conversations to myself so I have no answer [it] belongs to her. “

In the end, George, Leonard and Westbrook all landed in Los Angeles within three seasons – the three Southern California stars now play professionally in their backyards.

Both teams have struggled a lot this season, the Lakers inconsistencies have plagued them from the start. However, as the Clippers try to understand life without Leonard, the Lakers seem to be getting used to each other in recent games.

One of the reasons has been Westbrook’s comfort level on the pitch, the guard star was placed after a slow start to the season. The improvements have been a natural breakthrough and not some great discovery.

“It’s been natural for me the last four seasons because I’ve played for four different teams, so I have to find a way to be able to be effective, the best for the team that has been given to me,” he said. “With this is the process that I never waver from, the process that I never panic about and I just constantly watch movies and figure out how to improve myself or my team and that’s all I can do and that ‘s why I never i’m not really worried about anything happening. in the first two weeks of the NBA season, the month, whatever it is, because things can change as the season goes on. ”

They changed for the Lakers in 24 hours this week, as they have changed for the Clippers over the past two decades – two franchises becoming one of the NBA’s top destinations for star players.

The Clippers knew they would be without one of their stars this season; The Lakers have to adjust to their absence this season in flight.

Now almost healthy and finally with signs of momentum, the Lakers can win their third game in a row. Defeating a rival can mean a little more at a time when they have to embrace victories whenever and however they achieve them.

NEXT

VS. group

When: 7 p.m.

In the air: TV: Spectrum SportsNet / Bally Sports SoCal; Radio: 710, 1330/570 1220

Update: Hit by national TV in favor of the Warriors-Suns rematch, the Lakers will try to win third in a row and play at a level that suggests they too could become a top-tier team in the West. After improved defensive games and a healthier roster, the Lakers still have realistic hopes for improvement and will benefit greatly by bringing back LeBron James after losing a game in the NBA protocols for COVID-19. Meanwhile, the Clippers are trying to stay afloat thanks to Paul George’s mastery as Kawhi Leonard recovers from off-season knee surgery. It will be the first time the two teams will play against each other in a full Staples Center since March 8, 2020.