So here's how it went when Greg Monroe finally made it from Washington, D.C., to Minneapolis — through Chicago — Monday. He left D.C. at 7 a.m., got to town about noon, tested for COVID-19, got a little rest, then got to Target Center after 4 p.m., ready to start his 10-day contract.
Monroe was trying to learn the names of teammates he'd be passing the ball to in a matter of hours. The other players were doing the same.
"It was weird man,'' Jaylen Nowell said. "He came in. We were just kind of giving head nods, things like that. First half, we were just trying to figure out his game. When that happened, we all started feeding off his energy.''
Monroe's first NBA game in more than two years ended with him scoring 11 points, getting nine rebounds and dishing six assists in 25 minutes of playing time. He had six points, five boards and three assists in the fourth quarter when the Wolves took a lead over Boston and held it.
Long day. Long wait.
"I didn't know what to expect coming in,'' he said. "Just to be ready.''
It's been a long road back to the NBA for Monroe, 31, who has played in 632 career games, averaging 13.2 points and 8.3 rebounds. A 6-11, 265-pound classic back-to-the-basket center, Monroe had years of significant success but appeared to fall victim to a league that fell in love with space, the three-point shot and small lineups.
His last game before Monday was in the playoffs, with Philadelphia, against Toronto in May of 2019. Since then he has played for teams in Germany and Russia. This year he was with the Washington Wizard's G League team, the Go-Go. He was staying busy, staying in shape, waiting for his chance.
"I had to do a lot of stuff to get back here,'' he said. "I've been around the world and back, literally.''
Monroe said he spent a lot of time wondering about when — or if — he'd get another chance. But, he said, one thing his travels taught him was to live in the moment. "You just have to be where you are,'' he said. "That's how I started looking at things. Everyone wants to be in the league forever, for as long as they can. But life happens. Things happen.''
Wolves coach Chris Finch talked after Monday's game about how calming it was for a young team to play through Monroe on offense Monday.
In a league that has, at least in some cities, gotten a little bigger of late, perhaps good things will happen for Monroe going forward.
The good news: Patrick Beverley, who was held out of Monday's game even after coming off the NBA's health and safety protocols, played and started Tuesday against New York.
More good news: On Tuesday Taurean Prince, Naz Reid and Anthony Edwards all came off health and safety protocols.
Reid was available. But Prince and Edwards, who were in the protocols for the entire 10-day quarantine, are required to go through a two-day "ramp-up'' of getting their conditioning in order before returning.
Finch said only bike and treadmill workouts are available for players in quarantine. Cleared Tuesday, Edwards got on-court workouts both Tuesday morning and Tuesday night. It would be expected that Edwards and Prince would be ready for Friday's game in Utah.
Four players — Karl-Anthony Towns, D'Angelo Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt and McKinley Wright – remain in the league's protocols.