Denton: Vucevic Could Miss Extended Time With Concussion

Nikola Vucevic

By John Denton
Jan. 7, 2014

PORTLAND – The day after suffering a scary, head-first fall to the floor in Los Angeles the night before, Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic rested in his hotel room while battling a headache and the effects of a concussion.

Vucevic accompanied the Magic for their flight to Portland late Monday night, but he was not allowed to join his teammates to practice at the Moda Center on Tuesday. He’ll likely be away from the team for a significant period of time after suffering his second concussion in the past 10 months.

Vucevic jumped to block a shot attempt in the third quarter of Monday’s 101-81 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers only to have his legs knocked out from under him by Clippers’ power forward Blake Griffin. He landed with the side of his head striking the floor first. Vucevic was down on the floor for several minutes but never lost consciousness. He walked slowly to the bench and then back to the Magic locker room where team doctors diagnosed him with a concussion.

Vucevic said in a text message on Tuesday that he was dealing with ``just a headache’’ and he added, ``I haven’t seen the fall yet. I don’t really want to see it. … I’m resting now and hopefully I’ll be OK soon so I can get back out there.’’

The Magic (10-24) will now have to try and carry on without their standout center for an extended period of time. They are 0-6 this season in games that Vucevic has missed because of injuries. That doesn’t include the three games that Vucevic left early because of injuries – all losses – and games in which the Magic struggled to score just 80, 81, and 81 points.

In the past, Orlando has started veteran Jason Maxiell at center and he played well last Thursday in Cleveland with three blocked shots. Orlando can also use Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis and Kyle O’Quinn at the center position.

The challenge of playing without Vucevic begins Tuesday night in Portland against a Trail Blazers (26-8) team that is just a game out of first place in the rugged Western Conference. LaMarcus Aldridge, who ranks sixth in the NBA in scoring (23.3 ppg.) and rebounding (11.1 rpg.), will present major low-post challenges for the Magic.

``I’m certain that our guys will muster the energy and effort to play without Nik,’’ said Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said Tuesday. ``They will miss him, but they know that it’s a part of the job to be ready.’’

Monday’s game was Vucevic’s first back after missing the previous two games with an ankle that he’s injured twice this season. The hope was that his return and his ability to defend and rebound in the post would steady a Magic team in need of some consistency. Vucevic is averaging 13 points and 11 rebounds and has a team-best 16 double-doubles.

The Magic got a good look at Vucevic’s injury as it happened right in front of their bench on Monday night. He was unable to break his fall as his arm was pinned underneath him and the side of his head was the first thing to hit the floor.

``It was tough to see him go down because Nik is a big part of our team and he does a lot for our team,’’ Davis said. ``We’re going to miss him. Hopefully he’ll be back to help us out soon.’’ Added Vaughn: ``The replay I had was a little blocked. It was weird because he didn’t jump that high but Blake went toward the bucket, so that’s what elevated (his legs) and got him in a position to get hurt. I saw it happening before he even hit his head on the floor. So my immediate reaction was, `I hope he’s OK.’ I saw it in slow motion a little bit. He’ll be OK.’’

Vucevic suffered a concussion on March 19 of last season following a hit by 7-foot-2 Indiana center Roy Hibbert. He didn’t return to the Magic lineup again until March 30.

Because of his diagnosis, Vucevic now falls under the NBA’s concussion protocol. According to the guidelines of the protocol, a player who has suffered a concussion can’t have any physical exertion until he is completely symptom free when he is resting and until the results of a neurological test shows no difference from the results of the mandatory test he took before the season.

The player is not allowed to play in a game again until he passes a series of physical tests that require increasing levels of exertion. The tests are slowly increased from riding a stationary bike, jogging, agility work and non-contact drills. The player must be symptom free after each step and if the symptoms return, he must be stopped until the symptoms end. Then, he must begin again at the last step he passed without any symptoms.

After the player, Vucevic in this matter, passes all the tests, his team’s doctor must consult with physician, Jeffrey Kutcher, the director of the league’s concussion program before the player is cleared to play.

``Our staff, like always, we want our guys to be comfortable and 100 percent when they get back on the floor,’’ Vaughn said. ``That will be the motive with any decision that we have.’’