LeBron James has entered health and safety protocols and will be out for the team’s game against the Sacramento Kings, the team announced on Tuesday afternoon. The team did not provide any additional timeline for how long he will be out, only saying that he will miss the next game.
Later that night, Anthony Davis confirmed that James had tested positive for COVID-19, and even prior to that news, multiple reports had already indicated James would miss at least 10 days or needs multiple negative tests to get cleared, guidelines that strongly implied he had tested positive:
Players with Covid must be out 10 days, or return two negative PCR tests in a 24 hour period. For now, James will remain in the health and safety protocols.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) December 1, 2021
Before the team’s game against the Kings, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel declined to give many specifics about James’ situation beyond saying that the team had chartered safe transportation for him back to Los Angeles after he was placed into the protocols.
“Obviously it’s a huge loss. It’s disappointing. We just want the best for him right now. That’s where our thoughts are, and we have a next-man-up mindset,” Vogel said.
Prior to the preseason, Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka stated that the team would be 100% vaccinated by Opening Night, James included. On Media Day, James said that he was vaccinated, stating he did it for his family.
Per the NBA’s agreed-to policy with the Players’ Association, vaccinated players will not be required to quarantine even if they have a close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19:
Vaccinated players, meanwhile, will not have to deal with such tight restrictions. They will not have to undergo daily testing, and they will only be tested when they are symptomatic, considered a close contact of someone who tests positive for COVID-19 or required by a medical professional. Fully vaccinated players won’t have to quarantine if they are considered a close contact, but unvaccinated players will have to quarantine for seven days.
Also per the NBA’s health protocols, “players must return two negative tests on separate days before they are cleared to return to the court,” as Ben Golliver of the Washington Post noted.
If James tested positive for COVID-19, the NBA’s health and safety protocols for his potential return are as such:
• Anyone who tests positive will have two routes to return to work: go 10 days or more after the first positive test or onset of symptoms, or test negative twice at least 24 hours apart via PCR testing.
• Any player who tests positive, even if asymptomatic, will not be allowed to exercise for a minimum of 10 days and then must be monitored in individual workouts for an additional two days.
If this is a breakthrough case and James tested positive, it would not be the first one in the NBA this season. But it would serve further emphasize why the league has begun recommending booster shots to players to avoid further breakthrough cases:
The NBA has a 97 percent rate of vaccination among its players now. Study's results will be used to continue to make case for those eligible for booster shots to get them -- and for those remaining unvaccinated to become vaccinated. https://t.co/cUHeruIFQp— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) November 30, 2021
Per study, NBA's aware of 34 cases of vaccinated player or staff diagnosed with breakthrough case of Covid. 3 of 34 infections with individuals with "not detected" antibody levels; 31 of 34 had detectable antibody levels much lower than average of remaining testing population.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) November 30, 2021
Among study’s findings: Antibody levels vary via vaccine type and among people vaccinated in same period; antibodies decline over time; Moderna and Pfizer vaccines created higher levels of antibodies compared to J&J.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) November 30, 2021
Over the next 10 days, the Lakers play:
- the Kings on Nov. 30
- the Clippers on Dec. 3
- the Celtics on Dec. 7
- the Grizzlies on Dec. 9
The soonest James could potentially return based on these reported timelines would be in Oklahoma City on Dec. 10, 11 days from Tuesday’s announcement by the Lakers. If he does not return on that two-game road trip, the team returns home on Dec. 12 against Orlando.
A quick return is not guaranteed, however, as other players have missed significantly more time due to cases of COVID-19:
Missed games due to health and safety protocols this season— pickuphoop (@pickuphoop) December 1, 2021
Joel Embiid: 9
Lauri Markkanen: 9
Kevin Love: 8
Khris Middleton: 7
Nikola Vucevic: 7
Jakob Poeltl: 7
Matisse Thybulle: 7
Tobias Harris: 6
Isaiah Joe: 5
This breaking news story may be updated with more information as it continues to develop.