The Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder have postponed their opening night game of the 2020-2021 NBA regular season with a Covid outbreak sweeping through the Rockets’ locker room. Houston does not have eight available players for the game, so it can’t be played.
The Rockets had three positive or inconclusive tests in recent days, and also have four players out because of contact tracing, per Shams Charania of The Athletic. Star guard James Harden was ruled out for the season opener as well for violating the league’s health and safety protocols after being spotted at a club. Harden was fined $50K for breaking protocol.
Rockets guard Ben McLemore tested positive for Covid earlier in the week and had been away from the team. Rookie Kenyon Martin Jr. then tested positive on Wednesday a day after reportedly getting haircuts with DeMarcus Cousins and John Wall. Cousins and Wall were ruled out because of contact tracing. Martin subsequently tested negative and is now awaiting the results of another test, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Rookies Jae’Sean Tate and Mason Jones were also ruled out because of contact tracing, per reports. Houston’s roster was going to be painfully thin if the game was on. A league mandate states teams must have eight available players for a game to go on.
Players potentially unavailable tonight:— 0️⃣ days since last incident (@DreamShakeSBN) December 23, 2020
That leaves Eric Gordon, David Nwaba, Sterling Brown, Danuel House, PJ Tucker, Christian Wood, Bruno Caboclo, Brodric Thomas.
The decision to cancel the game comes after a report that the league was investigating a video of Harden at a club. Harden admitted to breaking the league’s Covid protocol on Instagram before deleting his post.
James Harden clarified that the event in question was not at a strip club. By doing so, he admits violating the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols, which prohibit players from going to bars, lounges or clubs or social events with more than 15 people. pic.twitter.com/K7GnJTxGBo— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) December 23, 2020
Harden reportedly tested positive for Covid ahead of the league’s restart in the bubble. He has tested negative for the virus in recent days, but still broke protocol.
This is not how the NBA wanted to open the new season. The league postponed the remainder of the 2019-2020 season after Rudy Gobert tested positive on March 11. The league restarted in the Disney bubble in late July, with the Lakers eventually being crowned as champions. The league opted against doing a bubble this season, and couldn’t even make it through opening night without a game getting postponed.
Postponed games remain a secondary concern with the virus still killing people all over the country. More than 3,200 Americans died from coronavirus on Tuesday.
We’ll update this story as it develops.