In retrospect, Timberwolves coach Chris Finch was probably joking.
Ahead of the Minnesota game in Utah on Thursday, in which the Wolves were seven players missing for health and protocols, Finch said the Timberwolves were “lucky enough to be able to benefit from the new rules in place that we can bring in. replacement players and play the game.
Obviously, not really. Minnesota essentially had to suffer a loss to one of the best teams in the Western Conference. Other teams have seen games postponed, but because Wolves’ positive COVID-19 cases have spread one or two at a time, Minnesota has had time to ‘take advantage’ of the NBA‘s new tenure to replace players entering health and safety protocols with fresh bodies.
So, while Wolves were deprived of Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards and more, they were able to sign Chris Silva and Rayjon Tucker via hardship exemptions to maintain a roster full enough to continue playing.
Neither signatory witnessed Minnesota’s loss to Utah.
In fact, it would have been better for Minnesota to show all of its COVID-19 positives at the same time, forcing the league to postpone its games this week rather than advance at well under 100%.
Wolves suffered a serious competitive disadvantage this week. Frankly, Finch and Co. was just in charge of keeping their heads above water.
Fortunately, Minnesota’s schedule includes three days of rest between Thursday’s loss and their next home game on Monday against New York. The brief hiatus gave Wolves’ healthy bodies a chance to escape for a few days and live a life of basketball and no testing.
For players currently in protocols, this is a chance to come back. Edwards and Taurean Prince were the first two Timberwolves players to enter Protocols and may be eligible to return to action on Monday, as that will mark 11 days since entering Protocols, and 10 days is currently the minimum number of days required to clear protocols and return to action.
Monday will mark Josh Okogie’s 10th day in the protocols.
Patrick Beverley and Jarred Vanderbilt signed protocols earlier this week, so they would not be eligible to return on Monday under current rules, but the NBA and NBA Players Association are reportedly working on redesigned protocols which could allow vaccinated and boosted players to clear protocols in as little as six days.
This means Beverley and Vanderbilt, depending on whether they show symptoms and whether the new rules are retroactive to players already in health and safety protocols, could play as early as Monday.
Karl-Anthony Towns and McKinley Wright IV entered protocols on Thursday, which means they’re both likely out until at least the Minnesota game next Friday in Utah.