Half the Rockets‘ roster appears to be in jeopardy for the team’s opener against the Thunder, according to reports. As we relayed earlier today, James Harden may not be able to play tonight due to an apparent violation of the NBA’s coronavirus protocols, while several other players are caught up in contact tracing after KJ Martin returned a positive COVID-19 test.
As Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN explains (via Twitter), Martin tested positive and then returned a negative test in the last 24 hours. Martin and the Rockets are now awaiting the results of another test.
Several players that were in close contact with Martin have reportedly been sent home for contact tracing purposes as the team awaits the latest test results. Earlier today, we learned that group of players includes John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, and Jae’Sean Tate. Wojnarowski (Twitter link) adds two-way player Mason Jones to that list. However, there’s no indication that any of those players have tested positive.
In addition to the six players noted above, the Rockets are also missing Chris Clemons (torn Achilles) and Ben McLemore (self-isolating due to COVID-19). That would leave just eight players of the team’s 16-man squad available for tonight’s game — as Wojnarowski points out (via Twitter), that’s the minimum number of active players mandated by league rules.
Since this is the first instance of a potential positive test affecting an NBA regular season game since March 11, we’re in wait-and-see mode to see how the team and the league will handle it. If Martin returns another negative test and it’s determined that his positive test was a false positive, it would seemingly open the door for him – and those players in close contact with him – to be activated.
Meanwhile, Harden – who had COVID-19 over the summer prior to the restart, according to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon – tested negative on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, tweets Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.
According to Shelburne, the league is still reviewing Harden’s situation and potential eligibility for tonight’s game. Harden, who was captured in a video that appears to show him partying at a Houston club this week – told investigators that he believed he was in compliance with the NBA’s healthy and safety protocols, Shelburne adds (via Twitter).
As Shelburne details, Harden told the league he attended a seated dinner for a friend who had been promoted at work and took a photo with her when he gave her a gift. He claimed he came in through a separate entrance and sat in a separate section of the venue with his security detail, then left after about 30 minutes (all Twitter links).