As the NBA presses on with the 2020-21 season, there are a number players that have returned to the court after having bouts with COVID-19. One of the things that has made the pandemic so difficult to deal with has been the variance in how different people are affected by the virus, and that has extended to the NBA.
Some players have remained asymptomatic and returned to play apparently no worse for wear, while others have battled more severe cases. Karl-Anthony Towns detailed the scary nights he had with the virus, as he battled a difficult case that kept him off the court for 13 games. Others, like Jayson Tatum, had more mild cases but are still dealing with lingering effects, as he explained on Tuesday in speaking with reporters ahead of Boston’s game with the Nuggets, via Tim Bontemps of ESPN.
“I think it messes with your breathing a little bit,” Tatum said after the team’s shootaround Tuesday afternoon ahead of hosting the Denver Nuggets. “I have experienced some games where, I don’t want to say [I was] struggling to breathe, but, you know, you get fatigued a lot quicker than normal. Just running up and down the court a few times, it’s easier to get out of breath or tired a lot faster. I’ve noticed that since I’ve had COVID. It’s just something I’m working on. It’s gotten better since the first game I played, but I still deal with it from time to time.”
Tatum says it’s not a constant issue, but it’s something he has to be in communication with the Celtics medical staff and coaches about during games whenever he feels that fatigue coming on. For a player that logs as many minutes as Tatum — 35.3 per game this year, the most of his career — that’s a significant concern. He’s seen a drop-off in efficiency since returning from his five game absence with the virus, shooting 42.7 percent from the field and 36.5 percent from three in the 11 games since he came back and it stands to reason that getting tired faster could play a part in that.
He also noted that he’s not alone in noticing that effect, and has talked with other guys in the league who have come back from COVID absences to deal with the same thing.
“I guess it’s just a long process,” Tatum said. “I’ve talked to other guys that have had it and they say they experienced the same thing and it kind of just gets better over time. But as much as we play, I guess it takes a little bit longer.”
The condensed season certainly doesn’t help matters, as he notes, because the downtime isn’t there for significant recovery. Hopefully Tatum can continue to see improvement in his conditioning and breathing, but it’s something the league and teams will have to make sure they are monitoring when it comes to players coming back from positive cases.