Tobias Harris took jumpers on the Wells Fargo Center floor last Monday night and could’ve opted to continue his normal game-night routine and suit up against the Trail Blazers.
It seems he made the right choice not to.
Harris returned for the Sixers on Thursday in a loss to the Raptors, then recalled the night he learned that he had COVID-19.
“It was tough,“ he said. “From the day that I got COVID, I came in here and I told (head athletic trainer Kevin Johnson), I said, ‘I’m not feeling too hot, but I’ll get tested after the game.’ And then he was like, ‘If you get tested after the game and you have COVID, the whole team is going to be in isolation.’ So I was like, ‘All right, test me now.’ And the results came back.
“For me, I just thought I had allergies at first. When I got back home, that night was rough — fever, body aches, the whole nine. From there, it was tough. But the team battled, obviously. We talked in the group text all the way through. But watching them fight, that was like life for me, really — sitting on the couch watching. I’m a relatively healthy person … so when that bug came and got me, that was tough.”
Though expectedly not at his peak level, Harris still played 37 minutes Thursday and contributed 19 points, seven assists and seven rebounds. Three Sixers — Joel Embiid, Matisse Thybulle and Isaiah Joe — are still in the NBA’s health and safety protocols.
Harris was in a positive mood, grateful to be cleared to play and fully rejoin his teammates. He feigned fatigue at one point during his pregame workout, putting his hands on his knees and then flashing a smile at assistant coach Sam Cassell.
“I felt all right out there,” Harris said. “Obviously my first game back in some time but overall, still able to go out there and play (37) minutes. I thought I got a little fatigued out there in some settings, but it’s part of the way of working myself back into it. It’s just a lot of progress from there. Nevertheless, just happy to go out there and play, that’s the biggest thing — to be healthy enough to go out there and play basketball. I’m definitely blessed and fortunate for that.”
As he recovered from the virus, Harris found himself fielding questions from people unfamiliar with the concept of breakthrough infections. He was good-natured Thursday about having firsthand COVID knowledge, breaking to laugh several times as he explained his perspective.
“I don’t think … many people understand that you can still catch COVID-19 with the vaccine,” he said. “I don’t think a lot of people knew that. People are writing me: ‘How do you have the vaccine?’ I’m like, ‘I can’t even talk to you right now.’ But I think a lot of people didn’t understand that. And truth be told, I figured out too that you can still have bad symptoms with the vaccine as well.
“But I think that for everybody, your family and your loved ones, you guide them in the right direction. I think that’s one thing that I was expressing: 'This is what I’m going through. Do what you want.' And I give them my opinion on it. And that’s my family and loved ones that I’m around.
“But I think a lot of people didn’t get that. I think that throughout this COVID process, I’ve read a lot from a lot of people asking me, ‘Dang bro, how’d you get that?’ And I’m like, ‘If I knew how I got COVID-19, I probably wouldn’t have gotten COVID-19, right?’ It’s just one of those things. And I’m not the type of person to go around figuring out who gave me COVID-19. But it is what it is at this point. Just take the right precautions and do what you want, but in a way to care for other people as well.”
Harris is unsure exactly how his body will respond to playing games again, but he’s glad it’s not necessary to follow along from his couch anymore.
“Before the game, I was a bit anxious to see how I would feel,” he said. “I still feel a little bit in my chest sometimes. You don’t know; we really don’t know. You hear about guys feeling it a bit more than they have in the past. It’s one of those things. But I am conscious of my body and how I do feel, and I think that it was good to get out there. I thought it was positive for me to go out there and play — play those minutes and be able to have that confidence that I can do that going forward.”