Houston Rockets' James Harden fined $50,000, 'unavailable' due to protocol violation, NBA says

Did James Harden break the NBA's COVID-19 protocol? (2:03)

Adrian Wojnarowski explains how the NBA reviewed footage of James Harden at a club and deemed he violated the league's COVID-19 protocol and a possible fine or suspension may be on the way. (2:03)

Houston Rockets star James Harden has been fined $50,000 by the NBA and was ruled "unavailable" for Wednesday's game 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.

Harden will not be suspended.

In announcing that Wednesday night's game against the Oklahoma City Thunder was being postponed, the NBA said Harden was "unavailable due to a violation of the Health and Safety Protocols." The Rockets didn't have the league-required eight available players needed to proceed with 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 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 issued a statement on Instagram on Wednesday saying "everyday it's something different" and that the event was not at a strip club.

"One thing after another. I went to show love to my homegirl at her event (not a strip club) because she is becoming a boss and putting her people in position of success and now it's a problem," Harden said in the post. "Everyday it's something different. No matter how many times people try to drag my name under you can't. The real always end on top."

It was unclear where the video of Harden was taken. ESPN and other media outlets reported earlier Wednesday that the video was taken at a strip club.

According to the health and safety protocols, failure or refusal to comply could subject a player to disciplinary action by the NBA or his team, including a warning, fine or suspension, as well as being required to participate in an education or training session. Repeat offenders may be subject to enhanced discipline.

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.

The Rockets and Harden are awaiting word from the NBA's medical staff to determine how long of a quarantine will be required before he is cleared to return to the team.

For a game missed due a COVID-19 violation, players will lose 1/72nd of their salary, according to league rules. Harden will lose $572,985 per game missed.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Bobby Marks contributed to this report.