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NBA finds James Harden violated coronavirus protocols; Rockets-Thunder postponed

Rockets star James Harden

HOUSTON, TEXAS - DECEMBER 17: James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets reacts during the fourth quarter of a game against the San Antonio Spurs at the Toyota Center on December 17, 2020 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

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Rockets star James Harden – whose trade request has gone unfulfilled – was seen (again) partying mask-less. Other Houston players are dealing with a separate potential coronavirus outbreak.

So, tonight’s Rockets-Thunder game has been postponed.

NBA release:

The National Basketball Association game scheduled for tonight between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center has been postponed in accordance with the league’s Health and Safety Protocols.

Three Houston Rockets players have returned tests that were either positive or inconclusive for coronavirus under the NBA’s testing program. Following the contact tracing protocol, four other players are quarantined at this time. Additionally, James Harden is unavailable due to a violation of the Health and Safety Protocols. All other Rockets players were tested again today, and all returned negative results. Houston has one additional player who is unavailable due to injury.

As such, the Rockets do not have the league-required eight available players to proceed with tonight’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Now that the NBA has determined Harden violated the protocols, will he face suspension and/or fine? When will he be cleared to play?

Harden reportedly contracted coronavirus over the summer. People who’ve recovered from coronavirus have some immunity against contracting it again. There are legitimate questions about whether players who’ve recovered from coronavirus should have to follow the same rules as players who haven’t had coronavirus.

There’s a long history of Harden playing by his own rules in Houston, anyway. That sets an example.

Maybe the Rockets were bound for these problems, anyway. Outside the bubble, it was only a matter of time until a team had multiple cases and had to postpone a game. It might be coincidental it was Houston first.

But it’s worth asking: Did Harden’s disinvestment in the Rockets and the NBA protocols contribute to an atmosphere where other players aren’t as stringent as they should be?

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

  • Kenyon Martin Jr. tested positive.
  • Ben McLemore was reportedly already away from the team after testing positive.
  • John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins reportedly tested negative but are out due to contract tracing.
  • Jae’Sean Tate was sent home.
  • Mason Jones’ status is uncertain.

People who contract coronavirus can test negative during the incubation period. That’s why Wall and Cousins are out despite testing negative. If they continue to test negative, they will soon be permitted to return. But the league determined their exposure to someone who tested positive makes it too risky for them to play tonight.