Dec. 2, 2021 -- Los Angeles Lakers star forward LeBron James was placed on the NBA’s health and safety protocols list for COVID-19 and will likely miss several games, according to ESPN.
The team arranged for James to return to Los Angeles from Sacramento, CA, on Tuesday morning. Under the league’s protocols, he may have to quarantine for 10 days or until he can provide two consecutive negative COVID-19 tests within 24 hours.
“Obviously, it’s a huge loss,” Frank Vogel, the head coach for the Lakers, said at a pregame news conference Tuesday.
“Hopefully, this is something that’s short-term,” he continued. “We’ll see.”
The team hasn’t yet confirmed if James tested positive for COVID-19, and Vogel didn’t say whether James had any coronavirus symptoms. Under the league’s protocols, vaccinated players are isolated only if they have received positive or inconclusive tests.
The news came on the same day the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association encouraged coaches, players, and staff members who are vaccinated to get a booster shot as soon as possible, according to The Associated Press. They could be subject to increased testing if they don’t receive an extra shot.
The NBA told its teams on Tuesday that it had documented 34 COVID-19 cases in which a fully vaccinated player, coach, or staff member had a breakthrough infection, according to an internal memo obtained by the AP. The league said about 97% of players are fully vaccinated.
After Tuesday’s game against the Sacramento Kings, Lakers forward Anthony Davis said he checked in with James before the game. Davis said James told him that he felt good and didn’t have symptoms but that the team would have to play a few games without him.
“We still have to find ways to win,” Davis said. “We can’t let that affect us. Obviously, he’s a huge part of our team. But we’ve played a huge amount of games without him. So we kind of know how that is already. We’ve got to continue to play like we did on the defensive end until he’s able to come back.”
James has missed 12 games this season, including 10 because of ankle and abdominal injuries. He also missed the Lakers-Knicks game in November after being suspended for the first time in his career.
“We just want the best for him right now,” Vogel said. “That’s where our thoughts are. We have a next-man-up mindset. It’s an 82-game season. You got to deal with guys being in and out of the lineup. We’ve been without him some already this season.”