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Lakers center Marc Gasol set for return vs. Sixers

Spaniard missed nine games due to NBA's healthy and safety protocols

After a nine-game absence due to the league’s health and safety protocols, Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said center Marc Gasol will return to the floor against the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday night at Staple Center.

Gasol has been cleared from the health and safety protocol for a week, but Vogel said L.A.’s starting center had to work himself back into game shape. The Lakers have not said whether Gasol contacted COVID-19.

“We expect Marc to return tonight on minutes restricted,” Vogel said. “He went through shootaround. He looked good. The only question mark right now with Marc is his conditioning and his legs. That’s something we’ll have to keep an eye on.”

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With superstars Anthony Davis (right calf strain) and LeBron James (right high-ankle sprain) out indefinitely, the Lakers could use a spark as they try to overcome a three-game losing streak. The Lakers were 4-5 without Gasol in the lineup.

Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma said he was pleased to see Gasol working out in his team’s shootaround Thursday morning.

“He hasn’t been out there with us for awhile obviously due to COVID protocols,” Kuzma said. “It was good to get him out there and see where he’s at from a body standpoint. … Just to see him out there is very encouraging for us.

“Especially for us, we’re very limited on bodies, especially in the frontcourt. If we can him back tonight or tomorrow -- whenever it is -- it’s going to bode well for us as a team.”