Miles Bridges spent the last 12 days pedaling away on a stationary bicycle, wondering when he might play again for the Charlotte Hornets.
Finally, he will. Forward Bridges was cleared out of health-and-safety protocols relating to his COVID-19 diagnosis. He’ll be available to play in Saturday’s 1 p.m. road game against the New York Knicks.
Bridges said he had no particular symptoms from the disease, since being quarantined May 4. He missed six consecutive Hornets games, in which the team went 2-4. They are trying to hold off the Indiana Pacers and Washington Wizards for eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
Hornets coach James Borrego said Wednesday the Hornets have missed Bridges “dearly.”
Now, with road games left against the Knicks and Washington Wizards Sunday, the Hornets are clinging to the eighth-best record in the Eastern Conference, which would be a significant advantage in the NBA play-in tournament format.
“It’s tough (watching) games we could win with me being out there. (But) I’m happy to be back with my team for two big games we need to win,” Bridges said during a brief conference call with media Saturday morning.
Hornets coach James Borrego has said he needs to be cautious in working Bridges back into the mix, playing him in short stints.
“Every player’s story is different — every guy has come out of (having COVID-19) differently,” Borrego said Wednesday.
“For some guys, it takes weeks to recover and feel better. It’s not just athletes, it’s everybody in general. We’re going to have to navigate this one very lightly. We’re going to have to monitor him and make sure his safety and his health are the No. 1 priority.”
What does Bridges think he can provide?
“It’s up to coach -- whatever he feels watching me play. If he has me on a minutes restriction, I trust him,” Bridges said, adding, “I’m good. I’m always optimistic. I feel like I can go.”
Bridges said mostly playing off the bench this season -- he was not a starter in 46 of his 64 game appearances this season -- likely helps him adapt to coming back from this absence.
“Me coming oft the bench this year really helped me understand how to let the game come to me,” Bridges said of not trying to force action. “I’m not really worried about offense. I’m worried about our defense making it tough on them..”
Bridges had an exercise bicycle in the room where he quarantined, which he feels mitigated the potential loss of conditioning.
“On that bike, you can make at as hard as you want. I know it’s not going to be game speed, but at least I wasn’t there doing nothing.”
The Hornets know they will have a play-in game Tuesday. But seeding, opponent, whether that game is on the road or at home are all still up for grab.
The Hornets are still missing two rotation players in Gordon Hayward and Cody Martin. Bridges is thrilled he will get a chance to impact the Hornets’ regular-season finish.
Next week will be the Hornets’ first post-season appearance since the 2015-16 season -- before anyone but center Cody Zeller was on the roster.
“We want to stay in that eight spot. These are big games for everybody,” Bridges said. “This is why you play in the NBA, for games like these. Everyone is anxious and excited to get out there.”