Kenyon Martin Jr. was initially listed by the Rockets as “not with the team, self-isolating” after his positive test, while John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Jae’Sean Tate were among the players instructed to isolate after they received haircuts at the same location Tuesday.
NBA teams are required to dress eight healthy players, and Houston was unable to meet that threshold.
In a separate incident, James Harden, the 2018 MVP, was fined $50,000 by the league office after attending a private indoor party at a Houston club Monday. In a statement, the NBA said Harden violated the league’s health and safety protocols. His availability going forward is not clear.
Harden’s case reflects the difficult decisions facing the NBA now that it is no longer playing its games in a restrictive bubble. While the league needs its biggest stars to drive television ratings, it cannot give preferential treatment to high-profile players without risking the health and safety of other players, opponents, coaches and referees.
In a video that surfaced online Tuesday, Harden was seen receiving luggage at a club with dozens of attendees. He was not wearing a mask.
“One thing after another,” Harden wrote Wednesday on Instagram. “I went to show love to my homegirl at her event (not a strip club) because she is becoming a boss and putting her people in position of success and now it’s a problem. Everyday it’s something different. No matter how many times people try to drag my name under you can’t. The real always end up on top.”
This is the second time that Harden, who is reportedly seeking a trade out of Houston, has pushed the boundaries of the league’s new health regulations this season. Rather than reporting to preseason on time, Harden traveled to Atlanta and Las Vegas and partied without a mask. When he returned to Houston, he was required to test negative on six consecutive days before he could participate in practices.
The NBA’s health and safety protocols for the 2020-21 are unequivocal: Players are not allowed to attend clubs, bars, lounges or other indoor gatherings with more than 15 people when they are in their home market. The league’s rules also greatly restrict socializing during road trips. Teams found to violate the protocols can be subjected to a variety of sanctions, including fines, suspensions and even the loss of draft picks and forfeited games.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver acknowledged Monday that “there will be bumps in the road along the way” as the league adjusted to life outside its Disney World bubble, where the 2019-20 season and playoffs were completed without any positive tests or postponed games.