Juancho Hernangomez considers himself "lucky."
The Timberwolves forward was out for 20 days as a result of contracting coronavirus, but the worst effect he felt from the virus was — boredom.
"I was lucky. I feel like I didn't have a lot of effects," Hernangomez said after the Wolves' 127-122 loss to Dallas on Monday. "I had two days of fever. Just boring. The last 20 days at home. I tried to do something else. I was with my cousin and with my friend. At least I got some company."
Hernangomez has been in the company of the team for about a week, but Monday marked his first time back on the floor in a game since Jan. 13. He came in during the fourth quarter as the Wolves were making a desperate push against the Mavericks, and they nearly came all the way back despite being down as much as 25. Hernangomez played nine minutes and scored five points.
Before the game, coach Ryan Saunders said Hernangomez, who is averaging 6.5 points this season, was healthy enough to play, but hinted that Hernangomez wasn't in the rotation. Perhaps there will be a shift in that after Monday, though Saunders also said the Wolves are monitoring how Hernangomez's conditioning responds to game action.
"He gave nice minutes there," Saunders said. "Probably played him a longer stint than I expected him to be able to play lung-wise."
It's similar to what Saunders said about center Karl-Anthony Towns, who remains out as he ramps up his conditioning. The Wolves are monitoring how his lungs can handle increases in activity before deciding when he can play again.
While Hernangomez was out, others who played at power forward such as Jarred Vanderbilt and rookie Jaden McDaniels did little to discourage Saunders from keeping them out of the rotation once Hernangomez was healthy. Both have provided needed defense and rebounding, while Hernangomez's strengths lie more on offense.
But even as the younger players made their pushes for minutes, potentially at his expense, Hernangomez said he was rooting for them.
"I love to compete," Hernangomez said. "But I feel proud of these young guys. I feel proud of Vando, I feel proud of Jaden, I feel proud of Jaylen [Nowell]. They've been doing a great job. They've been aggressive. The NBA is about chances and when you got it, I tell the guys you gotta do your best."
Hernangomez knows that all too well from his time in Denver, where he'd be in and out of the rotation, much like he is now.
"I'm probably the MVP of waiting for my chance," Hernangomez said. "That's how the NBA works. One day you're up, the next day you're down. You got to be ready every single day. You got to work on your game, you got to be in shape."
That last part can be tricky this season for players who are subject to COVID protocols such as Hernangomez, given the virus' unpredictability and because players can't practice while they isolate before finishing protocols. But Hernangomez said "it wasn't that hard" to go without basketball for a bit. But he was glad to get back to it Monday.
"I've been through a lot and this is my fifth year, so it is normal," Hernangomez said. "Just be patient, be positive, be happy for the guys who are playing. I'm happy for the young guys to develop. If I get my chance, I'm going to try to do my best."