Reinforcements are on the way for the struggling Toronto Raptors, who have lost five games in a row since suffering an internal outbreak of COVID-19.
Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, Pat McCaw and Malachi Flynn were cleared to practice on Tuesday, while OG Anunoby also progressed to doing 1-on-0 drills. It's unclear if any of the five will be available or fit to play in Wednesday's game against the Detroit Pistons, but odds are good that all five will be fully cleared by the end of the week. VanVleet was the only player to speak to the media on Tuesday, and said that he is feeling ready to return, but the final decision rests with the NBA.
"I had it. I had symptoms, a few days of symptoms. It was pretty rough on a few of those days, but it didn't last that long, got out of it, and at that point it became a waiting game ... it's a whirlwind, definitely an experience that I won't forget, I wouldn't wish it on anybody, but I'm here, I'm alive, I'm breathing," VanVleet said.
"I know there are a lot of people that didn't make it through COVID, so my thoughts and heart is with the families and people affected by this thing that weren't as fortunate as I was, so I'm thoughtful with that, but I'm just happy to be with the team right now."
Siakam has been out since the Raptors defeated the Houston Rockets on Feb. 26, while the other four players were sidelined in the five games. The Raptors had to postpone one game against the Chicago Bulls, and were severely shorthanded in the other five. A few of the losses were close, but for the most part the Raptors struggled badly on both ends of the floor without many of their core players.
"The weirdest thing is that everyone I talked to had a different experience. For me, tested positive, had symptoms pretty soon after that, back was sore, body aches, feel like I had just played three nights in a row, headache, my eyes were hurting. I didn't have the shortness of breath or anything, I had a fever for a day-and-a-half, two days, but definitely nothing like anything I had ever had," VanVleet said.
"I just felt a sickness, I could just feel it in me. I could feel it in my bones, in my blood, in my muscles, it was just something that was taking over my body for a short period of time. A lot of rest, a lot of Tylenol, and just waiting it out, and once it passed I felt perfectly fine again."
Raptors coach Nick Nurse was able to get most of his players through a full practice, albeit not at full intensity, with the exception of Anunoby who did travel with the team but made to work out separately. The Raptors have dropped to 11th in the East due to their main players missing time, and they will need to capitalize on every game from now until the end of the season to make the playoffs.
"You need some conditioning, need to get through fundamental things again, the foundations of our defense, get through basic sets, out of bounds plays, all those things just to start getting them locked back in, but it was good to see most of the guys back out there tonight," Nurse said of his first full practice in three weeks.
"It wasn't the longest, or most strenuous, there was some planned tempo to the practice, let's put it that way," he added.
More coverage on Yahoo Sports Canada