LeBron James cleared to return after false-positive coronavirus test


Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James can play in Friday’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers. (Ringo H.W. Chiu/AP)Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James has been cleared to return to the court after a false-positive test landed him in the NBA’s coronavirus health and safety protocols earlier this week, the NBA announced Thursday.

The 36-year-old James was held out of a Tuesday win over the Sacramento Kings and sent back to Los Angeles after registering a positive test that was collected Monday, but he will be eligible to play when the Lakers host the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday.

“LeBron James has cleared the NBA’s health and safety protocols,” the league said in a statement. “James was originally placed in the protocols on Tuesday, Nov. 30 after a series of tests delivered conflicting results, including an initial positive test that was collected on Nov. 29. Additional testing confirmed that he is not a positive case.”

James, who didn’t report any symptoms, appeared to hint at the complicated nature of his status when he tweeted Wednesday: “Something is REAL [fishy] going on.”According to the league, James’s initial positive sample was retested on multiple PCR machines and returned conflicting results: one positive and one negative. James was then retested on Tuesday, with one result returning negative and another returning an inconclusive result, and he has since returned two negative PCR tests that were conducted more than 24 hours apart.

Per the league’s protocols for this season, a fully vaccinated player such as James is generally exempt from daily testing and must undergo testing only if he is symptomatic, comes into close contact with an individual who tests positive or is required to test in compliance with local governmental guidelines. But the NBA instituted enhanced testing of all players regardless of vaccination status in the days after Thanksgiving, according to people with knowledge of the situation.

To get back on the court, fully vaccinated players who test positive but are asymptomatic must return two negative tests on separate days, as James now has, or wait 10 days after their positive test. All players who enter the protocols must receive medical clearance from a team and league physician before they can rejoin their teams, and those who exhibit moderate or severe symptoms also must receive a cardiac screening.

The Lakers’ game against the Clippers was originally scheduled for ESPN, but it was bumped earlier on Thursday in favor of a contest between the Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns. James will make his 12th appearance this season after missing time due to ankle and abdominal injuries, as well as a one-game suspension for a flagrant foul on Detroit Pistons center Isaiah Stewart and his one-game stint in the coronavirus health and safety protocols.

The entire Lakers roster, including James, was vaccinated before the season to ensure compliance with local vaccination requirements in Los Angeles. Back in September, James said he chose to get vaccinated “for me and my family” after his initial hesitation over getting the shot. The four-time champion hasn’t participated in the league’s vaccine advocacy efforts.

“We’re talking about individual bodies,” James said at Lakers media day. “We’re not talking about something political, or racism or police brutality. We’re talking about people’s bodies and well-being. I don’t think I personally should get involved in what other people should do for their bodies and livelihoods. … I know what I did for me and my family. I know what some of my friends did for their families. But as far as speaking for everybody and their individualities, and things they want to do, that’s not my job.”

James is averaging 25.8 points, 5.2 rebounds and 6.8 assists for the Lakers, who enter Friday with a 12-11 record. Los Angeles, pegged as the preseason favorite to win the Western Conference, has gone 7-4 with James and 5-7 without him.

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