- The NBA called off Wednesday’s game between the OKC Thunder and Houston Rockets at the Toyota Center in accordance with the league’s health and safety protocols.
- Houston didn’t have the required 8 players to play a regular season game with four players sent home due to contact tracing and three positive COVID-19 tests.
- Additionally, James Harden was not allowed to play while the league is investigating a video showing him maskless inside a club.
The NBA announced today that Wednesday night’s game between the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder at the Toyota Center has been postponed in accordance with the league’s health and safety protocols.
Tonight’s game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center has been postponed in accordance with the league’s Health and Safety Protocols. pic.twitter.com/Qn0hXlxCZr
— NBA (@NBA) December 23, 2020
The league made the announcement three hours before the game’s scheduled 8pm ET tipoff in Houston.
John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and ‘possibly more’ Rockets players are expected to miss their season opener due to coronavirus contact tracing, per @ShamsCharania pic.twitter.com/pbOe6RRrRm
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) December 23, 2020
Four Rockets players, namely John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Kenyon Martin Jr., Mason Jones and rookie forward Jae’Sean Tate were sent home earlier on Wednesday due to contact tracing protocols. Martin tested positive for the COVID-19 virus and it was learned that he, Wall, Cousins, Mason and Tate were together in an apartment away from the team facility gathered to get a haircut.
Wall and Cousins later tested negative for the coronavirus but the NBA’s new protocol on contact tracing gives the league the ability to make decisions on possible timelines for return if the player continues to test negative. Houston’s updated injury report on Wednesday after noon included Ben McLemore and Martin on “self-isolation”. Cousins was listed as questionable with a right ankle sprain. But the league’s contract tracing protocols changed that.
In total, the Rockets had four players sent home for quarantine due to contact tracing. They also had three players who tested positive, namely Martin, McLemore, and a third player in unknown as of this writing. Aside from the seven, the league also said that James Harden was unavailable due to a “violation of health and safety protocols” after video of him without a mask in a Houston club circulated in in the internet.
Footage shows James Harden allegedly attending a maskless Christmas party w/ strippers after his incident at practice. The NBA is now investigating.
VIDEO/details: https://t.co/zCaZ604SjR pic.twitter.com/wfN2aIz45F
— Complex Sports (@ComplexSports) December 23, 2020
James Harden’s affiliation with strip clubs is well documented. But this time around, he has refuted the accusations made against him. In an Instagram post, Harden said that he didn’t go to a strip club but admitted that he went to his “homegirl’s event. However, by doing so, he essentially admitted that he violated the league’s policy that disallows players from attending social events in bars, lounges, and clubs with more than 15 people:
James Harden posts a response on his IG.
Houston and the NBA are reviewing video of Harden maskless at a gathering to determine if it was recent enough to violate COVID-19 protocol, per @espn_macmahon pic.twitter.com/L1XjkQbah9
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) December 23, 2020
The attendance head count for Ms. Homegirl’s event has yet to be made public. And that is the reason why the NBA is investigating the matter. However, while the investigation is underway, the league isn’t leaving anything to chance and is not allowing Harden to play. Whether this is a suspension or not and for how long, remains to be seen as the NBA hasn’t made an official statement on Harden. One thing’s certain though, this matter won’t do any good to the ongoing situation between Harden and the team.
Harden has been the subject of headlines since he requested to be traded from the Rockets. But the team has not been in a hurry to deal him as they seek the best return for their star player. But Harden reported to camp late and now continues to defy league protocols. It’s worth noting though that he’s tested negative for every test he’s taken since returning to Houston. But that’s not the point.
Tonight’s game with the Houston Rockets vs. OKC Thunder has been postponed. After multiple Covid-19 contract tracing tests and positive tests, the League has decided to postpone the opener for Houston and OKC. pic.twitter.com/DbS4pBqOFd
— OKC CBS Sports 105.3FM (@OKCCBSSPORTS105) December 23, 2020
For the second time during the pandemic, the Oklahoma City Thunder have become collateral damage to COVID-19 related issues. Last season, the Thunder’s March 11th game against the Utah Jazz was also suspended after Utah’s Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. The suspension of that game led to the shutdown of the remainder of the NBA’s 2019-20 season. The league would resume action four months later but not after costing the league huge losses.
This time, the Thunder once again became victims of the Rockets’ violations, intentional or not. Like the Rockets, the Thunder were supposed to make their 2020-21 season debut on Wednesday but now they will have to fly back to Oklahoma City and then travel to Charlotte on Friday, ahead of their December 26th game against the Hornets which will now serve as the Thunder’s opening game for the 2020-21 season. Charlotte is playing Cleveland as of this writing.
Meanwhile, the status of the Houston Rockets’ December 26th game in Portland against the Blazers is uncertain. It will be interesting to see how the league tackles Harden’s latest actions. This has been one hell of a rough patch for the Rockets and it doens’t look like it’s ending soon.