If you’re looking for a silver lining during all the COVID-19 drama, it might come from Luka Dončić.

He still hasn’t cleared the NBA’s health and safety protocols, but the good news about that is that his other physical problems have had an extra 10 days to heal.

Remember, the superstar point guard was set to come back against Milwaukee last week after missing five games while recovering from left foot and ankle problems.

Then the positive test came and that changed everything. But for a player who logs as many minutes as Dončić does, the extra time off may pay dividends when he returns, as well as in the long run.

“I think he had a great Christmas,” coach Jason Kidd said before Monday’s game at Portland. “He’s just in protocol, there’s not much he can do right now.

“So, hopefully his ankle is healing and he’ll be fresh and ready to go when he comes back, whenever that is.”

The Mavericks are counting the games until he returns. They went into Monday’s game 3-8 when Dončić has been sidelined this season. They were 15-17 going into the Portland game after a high-water mark of 9-4 in the first month of the season.

While the Mavericks are expecting to get Reggie Bullock back during their upcoming two games at Sacramento, there still is no assurance of when Dončić and his 25.6 points, 8.5 assists and 8 rebounds per game will return.

“I’ve talked to him a couple times, but it’s not (that) we’re talking basketball,” Kidd said. “We’re just seeing how he’s doing and having casual conversations. To tell you how he looks, I haven’t seen him. I just hope things are going well for him.”

Sword cuts both ways: The Mavericks aren’t alone in their COVID-19 misery.

Their opponent on Monday had plenty of issues, too.

The Portland Trail Blazers found out Monday morning that coach Chauncey Billups would be out after entering the league’s health and safety protocols.

That’s in addition to seven players who are in the protocol process, including starters Jusuf Nurkic and Robert Covington.

The Blazers signed three players to 10-day hardship contracts on Monday, but assistant coach Scott Brooks said the hope was that they wouldn’t have to be utilized too much on Day One of their 10-day employment.

“If there is a silver lining, we got three guys that are able get an opportunity to live out their dream, get in the layup line, put on a jersey and hopefully they can taste an NBA win on top of that,” said Brooks, who has a dozen years as a head coach at Washington and Oklahoma City.

“We still have eight of our guys. Our starters hopefully won’t get in foul trouble. If they (newcomers) do play, I just told them to get out there and play free and enjoy the moment. Whether you play one game or 10 years, it goes fast.”

As for Billups, Brooks said: “I talked to Chauncey three or four times today. He’s doing well, very little symptoms. And our players are all doing well. Hopefully he’s back soon.”

Backup plans: The Mavericks expect their COVID-19 protocol players to start trickling back to active status, starting with Bullock and then others later on this trip.

Kidd said they are bracing for all eventualities.

“We still have six in hs protocols,” he said. “Reggie is getting close to clearance and is expected to join us in Sacramento. So we’re going in the right direction.

“(However), we can gain one and lose one. We’re just happy that we’re not getting any more positive tests. We’re starting to get bodies back, which is good. But this is going to be an all-year thing. This isn’t going (to be) once we get everybody back that it’s going to stop. COVID isn’t going to just leave us. It’s just part of life right now.”

Josh Green rejoined the team on Monday. He’s the first Maverick to get released from the protocols.

And the coaching staff has not been immune to the virus. Darrell Armstrong, Jared Dudley and Kristi Toliver have been in protocols.

“We do have a plan in place if I have to go into that,” Kidd said. “We’ve talked about every scenario we can think of. And there’s always one we didn’t think of. But we believe we covered every case. We’re prepared if I have to go into protocol that we have our replacement.

“But it won’t be with a G-League coach.”

Twitter: @ESefko

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