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COVID-19 shuts down Rockets-OKC season opener

From James Harden breaking COVID-19 protocols to false positives, and close contacts, the Houston Rockets season is off to a tumultuous start. The team’s season opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder was postponed for health and safety reasons hours before the game was scheduled to tip off.

Prior to the announcement, news leaked throughout the day that John Wall and Boogie Cousins were sent home because they were identified as close contacts to another player that tested positive for COVID.

In the NBA’s statement, they confirmed that three Houston Rockets players returned tests that were either positive or inconclusive for coronavirus under the NBA’s testing program. 

Following the contact tracing protocol, four other players were identified as being under quarantine. All other Rockets players that were tested returned negative results. 

To further complicate things, Houston guard James Harden was unavailable due to a violation of the Health and Safety Protocols. Harden was later fined $50,000 for violating league protocols, which among other things prohibit attending indoor social gatherings of 15 or more people or entering bars, lounges, clubs or similar establishments. Harden violated these rules when he attended a private indoor party on Monday, Dec. 21.

In addition to the domino of events that led to the postponement, Houston had one additional player who was unavailable to play due to injury. As such, the Rockets didn’t have the league-required eight available players to proceed with their game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

This is the first COVID-19 game casualty of the NBA season. The league is surely hoping this does not become a trend after they successfully escaped issues by implementing the bubble in Orlando over the summer.