When veteran big man Greg Monroe checked in for the Minnesota Timberwolves Monday night in a 108-103 win over the Boston Celtics, he became the 541st player used in the NBA this season, a new league record. Monroe was signed to a 10-day contract earlier that day, joining dozens of other guys across the league who received short-term contracts from teams to account for a significant number of absences due to COVID-19.
"I woke up at about 4 a.m. First flight was canceled," Monroe said. "I left D.C. about 7 a.m. roughly, had to connect in Chicago, got here around 11, had COVID testing, got a chance to rest, came to the gym around 4."
Teams across the league have been signing players to 10-day contracts at a historic rate, and in some cases players are making quite the impact when they get a chance. Monroe for instance, after spending most of the day traveling just to be available for the Wolves, finished his first game with 11 points and nine rebounds in 25 minutes off the bench. The Chicago Bulls decided to sign Alfonzo McKinnie to a standard contract after originally giving him a 10-day contract, as he took the roster spot of Alize Johnson who was waived in the process.
Though the circumstance isn't great, given the only reason many of these guys are getting a shot at a roster spot is because of the number of players in COVID protocols right now, it's allowed some veterans like Monroe, Joe Johnson and Isaiah Thomas to get another chance in the NBA.
It speaks to the tough spot many of these teams are in with COVID-19 surging once again around the league. Currently there are 11 teams that have five or more players in health and safety protocols, with the Timberwolves near the top of that list with eight players including Karl Anthony-Towns, D'Angelo Russell and Patrick Beverley. As a whole, the league has 116 players in protocols as of Tuesday, with nine games being postponed as a result so far.