Nobody in the NBA has been hit as hard by COVID-19 as Karl-Anthony Towns. Last March, his mother passed away from the disease, devastating him. Since then and five other family members to the disease, and he himself got it — a fairly serious case — and had to miss several weeks.
So it’s easy to forgive him if he was a little put off by the idea of playing a Charlotte team this week where three players were out due to health and safety protocols — one not pulled until within a couple of hours of the game. From Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic:
As final preparations for the game commenced, Towns went to his coach, Ryan Saunders, with a simple question: Really?
“It just brought up so many things I’ve been through, and it affected me in such a way where basketball wasn’t important anymore,” Towns said. “And I remember going up to Ryan and asking, ‘Are you sure we should play this?’ These guys had some COVID positives and we’re playing with guys who were around these people.”
It’s a legitimate question.
The NBA and its players’ union signed off on a season plan where the goal is to make up as much of the money lost this season — due to gate revenue and more — as possible while having safety protocols in place, get through this season and on to the next one next October where, hopefully, things will be back to traditional.
That money vs. safety balance has some tradeoffs. The NBA wasn’t going into the bubble again, so players are flying across the nation, staying in hotels, and while players get tested multiple times a day there are risks. Just watch Kevin Durant get pulled mid-game and you understand.
Towns understands all of this, but if he is cautious, at this point, you can’t blame him.