James Harden, the star of the Houston Rockets, was fined $ 50,000 by the NBA and declared "unavailable" for violating the league's COVID-19 protocols after the league posted a video earlier this week checked out of him by socializing in a maskless club.
Hardening is not exposed.
Announcing Wednesday night's game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the NBA said Harden was "unavailable for violating health and safety protocols." The Rockets did not have the required eight available players to continue the game.
Harden tested negative for COVID-19 on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, a league source told ESPN's Ramona Shelburne.
The video of Harden, celebrating maskless and published by Black Sports Online and shared on social media, allegedly came from a club's Christmas party in Houston this week.
The NBA's COVID-19 protocols prohibit players from going into bars, lounges, or clubs, and from attending social gatherings with more than 15 people.
The league said Harden broke those rules when he attended a "private indoor party" on Monday.
Harden has told NBA investigators that he believed he was following health and safety protocols, a source close to the Shelburne situation said. Harden and several witnesses at the event have told the league that he attended a sit-down dinner for a friend who had recently been promoted to work, the source told ESPN.
According to the source, Harden said he entered through a separate entrance and sat in a separate area of the venue with his security detail wearing a mask. He took a picture with his girlfriend and gave her a present. Harden, the source said, said he left after about 30 minutes and did not continue the group, which went to other locations later that night.
Harden made a statement on Instagram Wednesday saying "every day is different" and that the event was not held in a strip club.
"One thing at a time. I showed love to my homegirl at her event (not a strip club) because she's going to be a boss and putting her people in the position of success and now it's a problem," Harden said in the Post Office. "Every day it's different. No matter how often people try to put my name under you, you can't. The real thing always ends at the top."
It was unclear where the video of Harden was taken. ESPN and other media outlets reported earlier Wednesday that the video was filmed at a strip club.
According to health and safety protocols, failure to observe or refuse to comply may expose a player to disciplinary action by the NBA or its team, including a warning, fine, or suspension, and attendance at an education or training session. Repeat offenders may be subject to increased discipline.
Asked for trade, Harden broke the league's COVID-19 protocols during his brief stint at the start of training camp attending rapper Lil Baby's birthday party in Atlanta and visiting clubs in Las Vegas. The league required Harden for six consecutive days of negative coronavirus tests before he was released to practice with the missiles.
Sources told ESPN that Harden had COVID-19 the summer before the NBA season restart, which is why he signed up late for the league's Walt Disney World bubble. Players who have recovered from the coronavirus must continue to follow the league's health and safety protocols.
The Rockets and Harden are waiting for a message from the NBA medical staff to determine how long it will take to quarantine before clearing him to return to the team.
For a game missed due to a COVID-19 violation, players will lose 1/72 of their salary according to League rules. Harden loses $ 572,985 per missed game.
ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Bobby Marks contributed to this report.