LOS ANGELES — LeBron James said his brief stint in the NBA’s health and safety protocols left him feeling “confused,” “frustrated” and “angry” after his first game back in the Lakers’ 119-115 loss to the LA Clippers on Friday night.
James missed the Lakers’ game against the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday after returning a positive test for COVID-19 on Tuesday morning, forcing him to isolate himself from his team and fly solo back to LA on a plane chartered by the team.
“I knew I was going to be released because I’ve never, ever felt sick,” James said after finishing with 23 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and two steals against the Clippers. “I thought it was just handled really badly.”
James said he initially tested negative on Tuesday and then tested positive in a follow-up test. The league reintroduced stricter testing for its teams after Thanksgiving, hoping to detect cases that could have been caused by players expanding their circles around family and friends for the holidays.
“If you have a positive test, they will usually test you right away to make sure,” James said. “There was no follow-up test after my positive test. It was straight to isolation and you were put in protocol. That’s the part that pissed me off. I had to find a way to get home from Sacramento by They wouldn’t let anyone travel with me.” , no security, nothing, as I drove back from Sacramento.
“And then I had to put my kids in isolation for the time being, the people in my household for now, so it was just a big inconvenience. That was the anger part.”
James was cleared 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 the time he returned to LA until he was acquitted on Thursday, sources told ESPN.
Just as the league did not require its players to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, but imposed stricter testing and social distancing rules on those who were not vaccinated compared to those who were, the NBA will introduce similar enforcement later this month. when it comes to COVID-19 booster shots, The Athletic reported Friday.
James gave a roundabout answer when asked if he’d been given a booster shot and if the process he’d been going through over the past few days had prompted him to reconsider the booster shot if he hadn’t already.
“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 if you get a false positive and you are placed in isolation. That’s just the unfortunate part. But we’ll see what happens.”
Meanwhile, the Lakers saw their meager two-game winning streak broken against a Clippers team that went into the night after losing six of their previous eight games.
James, who said he didn’t pick up basketball from the time LA’s game against the Detroit Pistons ended on Sunday until Friday’s shootaround, admitted his rhythm was affected by the stop-and-go nature of his season. He played in the Lakers’ first three games, but then missed two games due to an ankle injury. He then played in the next three games for the Lakers, 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. He then played three games before missing the Kings game.
“When I went into Sacramento, I got into the rhythm – a really, really good rhythm – like offensively, defensively,” James said. “It was just really frustrating dealing with the groin or the stomach, and then dealing with the false positives knocking me out a match, then knocking me off the floor and not being able to keep my rhythm It’s just…it’s been a very challenging year starting a fourth of the season for myself. But only good things are ahead.”
Friday’s loss dropped the Lakers to 12-12, seventh in the Western Conference, with their next game at home Tuesday against a Boston Celtics team that soundly defeated LA on November 19 at TD Garden.
“It’s just hard when you’re in and out of the lineup, especially when, I guess, you don’t really have a reason to be out,” said Anthony Davis, looking back on the James saga. “We played well. So it’s a bit frustrating, but nobody feels sorry for us. We don’t feel sorry for ourselves. We have to go out and play basketball with everyone who is available.”