LOS ANGELES – LeBron James said his brief stint on the NBA’s health and safety records “confused”, “frustrated” and “angry” him after his first game in the Lakers’ 119-115 loss to the LA Clippers on Friday made night.
James missed the Lakers game against the Sacramento Kings Tuesday after returning a positive COVID-19 test Tuesday morning that required him to isolate himself from his team and fly solo to LA on a team-chartered plane.
“I knew that I would be acquitted because I never felt sick,” said James after 23 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals against the Clippers. “I just thought it was just being handled very badly.”
James said he first tested negative on Tuesday and then tested positive in a follow-up test. The league reintroduced stricter testing to its teams after Thanksgiving in hopes of identifying any cases that may have resulted from players adding family and friends for the holidays.
“Usually if you test positive, they’ll test you right away,” said James. “There was no follow-up test after my positive test. It went straight to isolation and you were logged. That’s the part that kind of pissed me off. I had to find a way to get home from Sacramento myself. They didn’t allow anyone to travel with me, no security, nothing when I returned from Sacramento.
“And then I had to isolate my children for the time being, the people in my household for the time being, so it was just a major inconvenience. That was the trouble.”
James was released to return to the lineup Thursday afternoon after returning a second negative PCR test within a 24 hour window. James returned a total of eight negative tests from his return to LA until he was released Thursday, sources told ESPN.
Similar to how the league did not require its players to get the COVID-19 vaccine but instead enforced stricter tests and social distancing rules for those who were not vaccinated, the NBA will roll out similar enforcement later this month when she comes to COVID-19 booster shots, The Athletic reported on Friday.
James gave a cumbersome answer when asked if he had received a booster vaccination and if the process he had been going through in the past few days had influenced his considerations about the booster, if he had not already done so.
“No, this process … we all did exactly what the protocols told us to do and did the tests and things like that,” he said. “It’s unfortunate when you get a false positive and get immediately isolated. That’s just the unfortunate part. But we’ll see what happens.”
Meanwhile, the Lakers saw their meager two-game winning streak against a Clippers team that came into the night after losing six of their previous eight games.
James, who said he hadn’t picked up basketball from the end of LA’s game against the Detroit Pistons on Sunday until the shooting on Friday, admitted that his rhythm was affected by the stop-and-go nature of his season. He played in the Lakers’ first three games, then missed two games with an ankle injury. He then played the next three Lakers games, then missed the next eight games due to an abdominal strain. He then played two games before missing a game due to the first suspension of his 19-year career. Then he played three games before missing the Kings game.
“When I went to Sacramento, I got the rhythm – a really, really good rhythm – like offensive, defensive,” said James. “It was just very frustrating to work with either the groin or the stomach and then deal with the false positive that knocked me out in a game and then knocked me off the floor and couldn’t keep my rhythm. It is simply … it was a very challenging year for me to start a fourth year of the season. But only good things are ahead. “
Friday’s loss dropped the Lakers to 12-12, seventh in the Western Conference, with their next game Tuesday at home against a team from the Boston Celtics who solidly beat LA at TD Garden on November 19.
“It’s just tough being in the line-up and out again, especially when I don’t think you have any real reason to be out,” said Anthony Davis, looking back on the James saga. “We played well. It’s just a little frustrating, but we don’t feel sorry for anyone. We don’t feel sorry for ourselves. We have to go out and play basketball with everyone who is available.”