LOS ANGELES -- LeBron James has been cleared to return to the lineup for the Lakers' game against the LA Clippers on Friday after a brief stint in the NBA's health and safety protocols, the league announced Thursday.
James has returned eight negative tests since returning to Los Angeles on Tuesday afternoon, sources told ESPN, after the Lakers star returned an initial positive test for COVID-19 in Sacramento on Tuesday morning. The Lakers chartered an airplane to fly James from Sacramento back to L.A., sources said.
In the days following Thanksgiving, the league introduced more rigorous testing with its teams, hoping to monitor any cases that could have surfaced from players expanding their circles around the holiday.
In a statement on Thursday, the league said James didn't in fact test positive, and the NBA detailed the chain of events that led to him missing the Kings game and being reinstated.
"James was originally placed in the Protocols on Tuesday, November 30 after a series of tests delivered conflicting results, including an initial positive test that was collected on November 29. Additional testing confirmed that he is not a positive case," the league said.
"In accordance with the Protocols, and the consistent testing practice that has been in place since the 2019-20 Season Restart in Orlando, the sample that produced the initial positive test was re-run twice and returned one negative and one positive result on two different PCR instruments. As a result, James underwent additional testing on November 30, with one test returning a negative result and a second test resulting in a clinically inconclusive result."
The Lakers beat the Kings without James 117-92 and had an off day on Wednesday, during which James took to Twitter to hint at his displeasure with the protocols.
"He said he's good," Anthony Davis said after the Kings game. "I think he's asymptomatic, which is a good sign, but we want to make sure that he gets back. Health is most important. This is bigger than basketball. He has a family. We want to make sure that he's good no matter what."
James did not practice with the Lakers on Thursday, as the health and safety protocols required him to be isolated from the team until returning two negative tests within a 24-hour window. Shortly before the Lakers practiced, James posted a story to his Instagram account showing his dog laying down in the house, peering out the window with the accompanying caption, "Mood."
James revealed on Lakers media day in late September that he had received the COVID-19 vaccine.
He already has missed 12 of the Lakers' 23 games because of injuries and a suspension. L.A. is 7-4 with James this season and 5-7 without him. James is averaging 25.8 points, 6.8 assists and 5.2 rebounds this season, his 19th in the NBA.