METAIRIE, La. (AP) — Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas has entered the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols, coach Willie Green said Friday.

Valanciunas’ status effectively rules him out for the Pelicans’ next game at Milwaukee on Saturday night. He has been among New Orleans’ most productive players this season, averaging 18.5 points and 12 rebounds per game.

The development comes at a time when the Pelicans are trying to gather some momentum for a potential push to climb back into contention for one of the Western Conference play-in spots after a 1-12 start to the season.

New Orleans has won five of its past six games and 10 of their last 16 — all without star forward Zion Williamson, who has yet to play this season because of his protracted recovery from offseason surgery to repair a right foot fracture.

Wing player Brandon Ingram, who leads the Pelicans with 22.9 points per game, returned to practice after missing New Orleans’ previous game on Tuesday night with a sore Achilles.

Also returning to practice were Josh Hart and Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Naji Marshall and Jose Alvarado.

Hart missed Tuesday’s game with a sore ankle and the others were in the NBA’s health and safety protocols.

Green said Ingram and Hart are day to day.

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