When Tobias Harris was first placed in the COVID-19 protocol, many figured he would simply quarantine for 10 days and come back. Other NBA players have survived symptom-free battles with the novel coronavirus. That wasn’t the case for Harris who experienced the “whole nine” during his time away.
The Philadelphia 76ers star made his return to the court on Thursday night against Toronto. Amazingly, he scored 19 points in 36 minutes despite not doing any conditioning during his six-game absence.
“I got a little fatigued in some settings,” Harris said after the Sixers’ 115-109 loss. “It’s part of the way I’m working myself back into it so it was progress from there. Nonetheless, just happy to get out there and play. That’s the biggest thing, to be healthy enough to play basketball, definitely blessed and fortunate.”
The road to recovery wasn’t an easy one. The 29-year-old couldn’t be around people, plus he couldn’t get out of bed for two days. Harris listed fever and body aches as the two major symptoms knocking him out.
“Yeah, it was tough, I mean you know from the day that I got COVID,” Harris said. “It was like I came in here and I told KJ [Sixers head trainer Kevin Johnson], I said that I am not feeling too hot but I’ll get tested after the game and he was like, ‘If you get tested after the game and you have COVID the whole team is going be in isolation.’ So, I was like, ‘Alright test me now,’ and then the results came back and, you know, for me I just thought I had allergies at first.”
It wasn’t allergies. One of the things fueling his recovery was watching his teammates play inspired basketball. They went 4-2 without him in the lineup, including short-handed wins over Portland and Chicago. He tweeted that “every W is healing me” but he missed being out there. As soon as he produced back-to-back negative tests, Harris was back in the gym and ready to test his body.
“I don’t know how he was in such great shape,” head coach Doc Rivers said. “I’m not shocked, of all the people you would pick to be in shape after COVID it would probably be Tobias. We tried to give him short spurts but he looked good.”
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No Minutes Restriction, Though
Prior to tip-off versus Toronto, Sixers head coach Doc Rivers mentioned he might limit Harris’ playing time. That wasn’t going to work for the 6-foot-8 forward who let it be known he wasn’t coming back on a minutes restriction.
“I was like if I can go out there and play even play a couple of minutes,” Harris said. “I did say I wasn’t going to go play if I was on a minute restriction that’s one thing I did say.”
Rivers played him in short spurts throughout the contest. When he attempted to sit him in the third quarter for a longer stretch, Harris refused.
“We took him out at one point in the third and he kept telling us ‘I’m good, I’m good, I’m good’,” Rivers said. “The way the game’s being played at that pace we just thought we had to sit him some. We tried to give him short spurts but he looked good.”
Tyrese Maxey Needs to Push Pace Better
Tyrese Maxey keeps proving why the Sixers might not need Ben Simmons. The second-year guard has scored 64 points combined over his last two games, including 33 against the Raptors. However, pushing tempo is one area where the coaching staff wants to see improvement. Rivers kept getting in his ear about it on Thursday night. And it wasn’t the first time.
“I just tried to do what he asked me to do,” Maxey said of Rivers. “I really do appreciate him and Sam [Cassell] and the entire coaching staff for really helping me though this process. I just try to go out there and give it my all. But pushing the pace, it helped us get back in the game at the end, you know, we got stops, we ran, we advanced the ball and guys scored and finished in transition.”
That fast finish got them a 109-107 lead with 1:32 left but then Gary Trent Jr. drilled a show-stopping triple followed by another one from Fred VanVleet to hand Toronto the 115-109 victory. Maxey finished with only two turnovers but cited them as reasons for falling short.
“I had a couple turnovers and they came back to bite us at the end,” Maxey said. “And you don’t think about them in the first or second quarter, but they are huge plays if you really think about them.”