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Sources: Harden available vs. Blazers if negative

Houston Rockets star James Harden will be required to isolate until Friday and continue to test negative for the coronavirus before being cleared to return to play, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Harden should be available to play against the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday.

Harden was fined $50,000 by the NBA and was ruled “unavailable” for Wednesday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder due to a violation of the league’s COVID-19 protocols after the league reviewed video of him socializing maskless at a club earlier this week.

Because the Rockets didn’t have the league-required eight available players needed to proceed with the game, the game against the Thunder was postponed.

Harden tested negative for COVID-19 on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, a league source told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne.

The video of Harden partying maskless, which was published by Black Sports Online and has been circulating on social media, is purportedly from a Houston club’s Christmas party held this week.

The NBA’s COVID-19 protocols prohibit players from going to bars, lounges or clubs and from participating in social gatherings of more than 15 people.

The league said Harden violated those rules when he attended a “private indoor party” on Monday.

Harden has told NBA investigators he believed he was in compliance with health and safety protocols, a source close to the situation told Shelburne. Harden and multiple witnesses at the event have told the league that he attended a seated dinner for a friend who had recently been promoted at 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 and was wearing a mask. He took a photo with his friend and gave her a gift. Harden, the source said, said he left after approximately 30 minutes and did not continue on with the group, which went to other locations later in the night.

Harden, who has requested to be traded, violated the league’s COVID-19 protocols during his brief holdout at the beginning of training camp when he attended rapper Lil Baby’s birthday party in Atlanta and frequented Las Vegas clubs. The league required Harden to have six consecutive days of negative coronavirus tests before clearing him to practice with the Rockets.

Sources told ESPN that Harden had COVID-19 during the summer before the NBA season restart, which is why he was late reporting to the league’s Walt Disney World bubble. Players who have recovered from the coronavirus are still required to follow the league’s health and safety protocols.

ESPN’s Tim MacMahon contributed to this report.

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