LeBron James has been placed in the NBA’s health and safety protocols, and was ruled out for the Los Angeles Lakers’ game against the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night.
The league taking this action means that James, who said earlier this season that he is vaccinated, has either tested positive for COVID-19 or had an inconclusive result.
If James tested positive, he would likely be looking at a minimum of 10 days away from the Lakers unless he returns two negative PCR tests in a 24-hour span.
The Lakers learned of James’ situation Tuesday morning, coach Frank Vogel said, and arranged for transportation to take him back to Los Angeles from Sacramento. Vogel would not say if James was exhibiting any symptoms.
“Obviously it’s a huge loss,” Vogel said before Tuesday’s game. “It’s disappointing. We just want the best for him now. That’s where our thoughts are. However, team-mate Anthony Davis appeared to suggest a positive test had been returned in his post-game comments.
Davis told reporters: “He said he’s good. I think he’s asymptomatic, which is a good sign, but we want to make sure that he gets back.
“Health is most important. This is bigger than basketball. He has a family. We want to make sure that he’s good no matter what.”
The news James is missing time came on the same day the NBA underscored its previous recommendation, echoed by the National Basketball Players Association, that coaches and players who are vaccinated receive a booster shot as soon as possible.
The NBA, in a memo obtained by the Associated Press, also told its teams Tuesday it has documented 34 cases in which a fully vaccinated player, coach or staffer had a breakthrough case of COVID-19. The league has said about 97 per cent of players are fully vaccinated, with Brooklyn’s Kyrie Irving – who has not played this season because of his status – among the exceptions.
Other NBA stars have already missed multiple games this season after testing positive, including Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid – who just missed three weeks while dealing with the virus.
Tuesday’s game marks James’ 12th absence in the Lakers’ first 23 games this season. He missed 10 games because of injuries and another because of the first NBA suspension of his 19-year career.
With James, the Lakers have gone 7-4. Without him, they were 4-7 entering Tuesday.
“We’re different now than we were three weeks ago or when that first time he went out was,” Vogel said. “Hopefully we’ll have more success this time around.”
James is averaging 25.8 points, 5.2 rebounds and 6.8 assists this season. If he is out for 10 days, he would miss at least four games.
James is the 17th player known to have entered the league’s health and safety protocols since the start of the regular season. That does not include some players who missed time during training camp and the preseason.
“I think everyone has their own choice to do what they feel is right for themselves and their family and things of that nature,” James said in September, when asked about his vaccination status. “I know that I was very [sceptical] about it all. But after doing my research and things of that nature, I felt like it was best suited for not only me but for my family and my friends. And, you know, that’s why I decided to do it.”