Speaking to reporters after Friday night's loss to the Charlotte Hornets, Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns said he was "spooked" and "out of it mentally" after several Hornets players were pulled from the game as part of the NBA's health and safety protocols for COVID-19.
The situation occurred prior to the opening tip as Hornets forward PJ Washington was a late scratch due to the protocols. With two other players being pulled as close contacts, Towns' mind went elsewhere as he started the game shooting 2-for-9 in the first half.
"I wasn't mentally there in the first half," Towns said. "That COVID situation really spooked me. I don't know. It just triggered me. My teammates knew it and they were there to support me and they understood it was going to be tough for me early on, but it spooked me a lot. To say I was scared is the least thing, but second half, I felt better."
Towns' struggles with COVID-19 have been well-documented. Since the start of the pandemic, Towns has lost his mother and six other family members to the virus. Towns was also coming off his return on Wednesday night after missing 13 games after contracting a high-risk case of the virus.
"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. "I remember going up to [coach] Ryan [Saunders] 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."
Towns mentioned that a conversation with his father, who also contracted the virus last March, helped calm his nerves for the second half. Towns finished the game with 25 points and eight rebounds, but it's clear that he still has the safety of his teammates and the rest of the league is still in the forefront of his mind.
"I don't want them to go through what I went through. For me, it was me just thinking for them and this is not a situation to play with especially if you have someone positive."