Sixers' Tobias Harris describes lingering impact of COVID-19

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Harris: 'I still feel like every day I have a cold' post-COVID originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The injury report never tells the entire story.

After missing six games because of health and safety protocols last month, Harris suited up in eight of the Sixers’ next 10, missing two contests with left hip soreness. The 29-year-old then sat out the Sixers’ Dec. 3 win over the Hawks with what the team classified as a “non-COVID illness.” However, based on Harris’ comments Wednesday night after a 101-96 Sixers loss to the Heat, COVID-19 was relevant in that absence.

Following a 24-point, five-rebound, four-assist performance, Harris was asked whether he’s experiencing after-effects of the virus.

“Yeah, a little bit,” he said. “I still feel like every day I have a cold. Honestly, I think that’s just what it is right now when you’re playing the game and your body is taking on stress — stress from activity. But for me, it’s just keep fighting through and hopefully progress over time. Obviously it’s something that you don’t really know too much about as a whole.”

Last season, Seth Curry said he did not feel at his best months after testing positive for COVID-19. Celtics star Jayson Tatum is another player who dealt with long-term issues.

“It’s hard to explain,” Curry said in May. “You feel a little bit differently as a whole, and just the way I breathe at times is a little bit different — a little more fatigued.”

Harris is a well-conditioned athlete who’s been known in past seasons for his durability, twice playing 82 games in a year. The lack of control here is difficult. As he noted, “there’s only so much you can really do.”

He’s aware of the spike in COVID-19 cases across the NBA and understands well that even vaccinated, health-conscious players like himself can experience serious symptoms. 

“It’s really frustrating,” he said. “I pride myself on my health. To get it and then honestly to feel like I got it twice was the hardest thing. Just staying heavy on doing all the other stuff — eating healthy and hydrating myself and taking my vitamins and everything else, and just staying safe — because it’s a real thing.

“You’re seeing it widespread throughout the league. We kind of were the first team that got it (this season). I pray all the guys stay safe and no one has any extreme symptoms and whatnot. But it’s spreading, for sure.”

Georges Niang on Wednesday became the fifth Sixer to enter health and safety protocols this year. Harris, Joel Embiid, Matisse Thybulle and Isaiah Joe have all returned after being sidelined in early November. The Sixers’ opponent on Thursday night, the Nets, have seven players currently in protocols.

Harris also knows how sports fandom works. It’s a results-oriented business and some fans approach the games with that mindset, caring more about Harris' production relative to his five-year, $180 million contract than a lingering health concern.

It didn’t sound like that bothers him.

“Fans and people watching, once you’re on that court nobody cares,” Harris said. “It’s a fact; nobody cares what’s going on with you health-wise or at home or whatever. It’s like, what are you doing right now on the floor to help the team win? That’s part of the game, honestly.

“I’m not complaining about it, but it is that element. As a team, we have a team of guys who have had COVID. We do have those conversations: ‘How are you feeling? How’d your wind feel out there?’ … Those things, they’re real.”