Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns was upgraded before Monday's game from "out" to "doubtful."
It's a distinction that might seem small but offers a hint that Towns is trending in the right direction as he works his way back after his positive test for COVID-19 over three weeks ago. Towns sat out again Monday.
Towns has been traveling with the Wolves during their road trip and has been in the gym working to get his conditioning back to where it needs to be in order to play in an NBA game. Coach Ryan Saunders said Towns has been able to get some workouts in on this trip, and the Wolves have done all they can to simulate game speed to see how he reacts.
"He's really been able to push himself," Saunders said. "Our medical group has been able to try to simulate certain stints during a game, the stopping and going, what that might feel like with his lungs."
Neither the Wolves nor Towns have said how mild or severe his case of COVID-19 was, but his recovery underscores that each individual responds to COVID differently, and just because a player may be clear of the virus, the lingering effects may not make them ready to play in a rigorous NBA game right away.
"It's really just how his lungs can handle certain durations of work and high intensity work," Saunders said. "Nothing can simulate a game environment like a game. It's physical and you can't always simulate it with coaches, even as in shape as our coaches feel they are, they aren't able to simulate what he'd see against a [Grizzlies center Jonas] Valanciunas or a lot of bigger guys we've been facing."
Towns has played in just four games this season and missed time because of a left wrist dislocation prior to his COVID diagnosis.
Hernangomez able to play
Recently forward Juancho Hernangomez was active in games but was serving as an emergency backup after he worked his way through COVID protocols. But Saunders indicated Monday that Hernangomez is available to play, he just isn't in the rotation at the moment as others such as rookie Jaden McDaniels have earned minutes.
"It's just how the year goes, whether it be guys out to health and safety protocols, guys out to injuries, a guy like Jaden McDaniels has played well right here. Juancho will have another opportunity," Saunders said. "He's such a professional, and has such a great spirit about him that he is staying ready and doing everything possible to get back to form."
Okogie back starting
Josh Okogie was back in the starting lineup after coming off the bench Saturday. Okogie played less than 10 minutes in each of the past two games prior to Monday and was shooting just 33%.
"I can definitely be playing better," Okogie said. "I just have to stay with it, stay confident, stay ready … Holistically, I've just got to be better in every aspect."