Denton: No Firm Timetable for Vucevic's Return

By John Denton
Jan. 15, 2014

ORLANDO – Because he is now subject to NBA guidelines regarding concussions, Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic has no firm timetable for his return.

His return, quite simply, will be decided by Magic and independent NBA doctors and it’s out of the hands of the coaching staff.

Vucevic suffered a concussion last Monday in Los Angeles when he fell head-first to the floor after having his legs knocked out from under him by Clippers’ forward Blake Griffin. It is Vucevic’s second concussion in the last 11 months, heightening the concern around the standout center.

Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said that Vucevic has began the NBA’s concussion protocol, which is significant because it means that the center is no longer suffering from symptoms related to the concussion. Vucevic said last week that he was suffering from headaches in the days after the scary fall to the floor.

Under guidelines of the NBA’s concussion protocol, players have to pass a variety of gradually increased tests before they are allowed to even return to practice. After all symptoms are gone, players much ride a stationary bike, jog on a treadmill and go through non-contact drills without feeling the effects of the concussion. If symptoms reappear, they have to repeat the step. Team doctors and a NBA-appointed doctor will then consult before the player – Vucevic in this case – is allowed to return to practice.

Magic coach Jacque Vaughn, a NBA player for 12 seasons before going into coaching, supports the NBA’s concussion protocol and said the safety of the players should come first and foremost.

``He’s in the doctor’s hands and in the NBA concussion protocol and he hasn’t been cleared yet,’’ Vaughn said of Vucevic. ``I’m sure in the past that guys played with concussions, but now since there’s a protocol (the symptoms) are more evident. You have to be smarter of when guys are back on the floor. We’ve seen because of football that guys get back too soon and have multiple concussions. There’s always concern, but you want your guy back on the floor in good shape.’’

AFFLALO ENDORSEMENT: Add Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau to the growing list of Eastern Conference coaches who have taken notice of Orlando guard Arron Afflalo and endorse his bid to the make the NBA All-Star Game.

Afflalo, who missed his third straight game Wednesday night with a strained foot, has been Orlando’s steadiest player all season. He scored a career-best 43 points against Philadelphia and hit eight 3-pointers against Milwaukee. In addition to having four 30-point games and 18 20-point games, he’s averaging career bests in scoring (20.8 ppg.), rebounding (4.4 rpg.), assists (3.9 apg.) and 3-point shooting (41.4 percent).

Afflalo is hoping that all of it equates to the first All-Star appearance of his seven-year NBA career. Vaughn has said he will call around to other coaches in the Eastern Conference to push for Afflalo to make the All-Star game, and it sounds like Thibodeau is already on board with the idea.

``I know Afflalo is hurt, but he’s had a great year and he’s a guy who just gets better and better,’’ Thibodeau said. ``You could certainly make a case for him (to make the All-Star Game). The way he scores the ball so many different ways. And the fact that he plays both sides of the ball – he’s a terrific defender as well. But each year he’s gotten better and better. So he’s certainly deserving of consideration.’’

MORE POST-UPS: With Vucevic out for the foreseeable future, the Magic are in search for points in the paint. Starting power forward Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis is an option, but so too is reserve power forward Andrew Nicholson.

Last season, Nicholson proved himself to be one of Orlando’s most reliable players with his back to the basket. This season, he’s expanded his shooting range to include the 3-point shot from the corner. But by taking 66 3-pointers (and making 21) it’s taken Nicholson out of the paint for potential post-up plays. That’s significant because Nicholson has made 43 of 68 shots (63.2 percent) this season and 15 of 36 (41.6 percent) from the two low blocks.

Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said that Nicholson needs to find a balance between posting up for high percentage shots and corner threes that stretch opposing defenses.

``I think throughout the course of the game, whether he’s taking four or five shots, there have been some touches on the post,’’ Vaughn said. ``We’ll continue to remind him that his ability to post-up for us – whether it’s me calling plays for him or him getting down there himself – he’s good for us posting up and creating space for us.’’