He was cleared to return for Friday's game against the Los Angeles Clippers, registering 23 points, 11 rebounds and six assists in 36 minutes.
James got an initial positive test from a sample collected Monday. The sample was retested twice, producing one positive and one negative result. James underwent additional testing Tuesday, but those tests returned one negative result and one clinically inconclusive result, according to the league.
James subsequently had two negative PCR tests conducted more than 24 hours apart, meeting the criteria necessary to return to play. James confirmed earlier this season that he is vaccinated.
“Just confused, frustrated and angry,” James told reporters after the game. “I was sitting at the house and hadn’t been able to do anything. Today was the first time I’d been able to catch a basketball since Sunday. ... I felt like I was getting into a really good rhythm offensively, defensively. It’s been very frustrating, not being able to get into a flow for myself. Hopefully it will lead to good things later.”
James said he had to find his own way home from Sacramento after the test, and his family had to go into isolation along with him until he got enough negative tests. James was asymptomatic throughout, which he found particularly frustrating even though he understands the logic behind the NBA’s protocols, which he believes have been good for the game.
“We’ve all been doing exactly what the protocol told us to do,” James said. “Unfortunately you get a false positive and get put right into isolation.”
On Friday, Shams Charania reported that NBA players who have not received a booster COVID-19 dose by Dec. 17 will be subject to game day testing.
The NBA has raised the level of urgency regarding getting booster shots against the coronavirus, telling players and coaches it is no longer advisable to wait before receiving the additional dose.
With positivity rates rising in many areas of the country, and with the rate of COVID-19 community transmission in most NBA markets considered by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention to be “high” or “substantial,” the league and union felt the additional urgency is now warranted. The NBA has seen an increased positivity rate among vaccinated players, team staff and family members of late, which is consistent with the trends in many places around the nation.
At least 17 players have entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols since the start of the season. Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid and Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton are among the biggest names who have missed significant playing time while dealing with the coronavirus.
— With files from the Associated Press.