Denton: Vucevic Updates his Concussion Status

By John Denton
Jan. 26, 2014

NEW ORLEANS – Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic doesn’t remember flipping in midair and falling head-first onto the floor at Staples Center nearly three weeks ago, and he hasn’t seen a replay of the scary tumble either.

Considering what he’s heard from family members, coaches and teammates, he says that he is in no rush to re-live what happened on Jan. 6 against the Los Angeles Clippers.

``I haven’t watched it. I probably will see it eventually, but not yet,’’ Vucevic said. ``Maybe after the season.

``A lot of my people tell me that it was really scary,’’ Vucevic added. ``That’s part of the reason that I don’t even want to see it. If I see it, I might just start thinking about it. So I just want to play and realize that stuff happens. I’m not the first one that this has happened to.’’

That’s certainly the case, but it doesn’t lessen the seriousness of the fall that Vucevic took and the concussion that he suffered. He jumped to block a Blake Griffin shot in the lane and as he turned away in midair, Griffin’s shoulder hit Vucevic in the lower back, causing his legs to fly upward. That much he remembers, but the rest is something anyone would be happy not to remember.

The left side of Vucevic’s head hit the floor first, and he landed with such an impact that he actually bounced off the floor and hit a second time. He never lost consciousness, and immediately rolled over onto his back and put both hands over his eyes and head and in obvious pain.

``The moment itself, I don’t remember too much,’’ said Vucevic, who walked off on his own power – first to the bench and then to the locker room. ``I know I was going to help on Blake and I jumped on the pump fake and he went under me, but I don’t remember the fall and what happened after that. I don’t think I lost consciousness, but I don’t remember the fall itself or me going to the locker room. I guess from the fall it was just a scary moment.’’

Vucevic, the NBA’s second-leading rebounder last season, hasn’t played since the fall because of the concussion that he suffered. He said he spent approximately 10 days resting and staying away from video and light stimulation in hopes of speeding up his recovery time.

Vucevic is now subject to the guidelines of the NBA concussion protocol. He had to pass a series of tests – riding a stationary bicycle, walking on a treadmill and doing some light jogging – while remaining symptom-free and under the supervision of Magic doctors.

He was cleared for on-court drill work two days ago and he made the trip to New Orleans with the Magic. He said teammates who were unaware of his recovery schedule showered him with hugs and high fives upon rejoining the team on the road.

There is no set timetable on Vucevic’s return. He still must be cleared by the team doctors and Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher, the director of the NBA’s concussion program, before he is cleared to return to game action.

``I’m feeling a lot better. I started doing (on-court) work a couple of days ago, so I’m hoping to get cleared soon. I’ve just got to get back in a good enough level of shape so that I can play well out there,’’ Vucevic said. ``It’s been tough because I couldn’t be with the team. All I could do was sit home and rest. I couldn’t watch TV or do anything with a lot of noise or light. I was just resting at home and spending time with my girlfriend, but the hard part was not being with the team.’’

In 28 games this season, Vucevic has averaged 13 points, 11 rebounds, 1.14 steals and 1.11 blocks a game. He’s shot 51 percent from the floor and compiled 16 double-doubles. His best game of the season came, ironically enough, against the Clippers when the two teams played in Orlando in November. He battered the Clippers for 30 points and 21 rebounds – the fifth game of his career with at least 20 points and 20 rebounds in the same game.

Vucevic’s importance to the Magic has been evident in the record. Orlando is 10-17 this season with him on the floor, but just 2-15 without him. Including the Clippers game when Vucevic was injured, the Magic dropped seven straight games after his fall.

The concussion is Vucevic’s second in the past 10 months. He was accidentally hit in the jaw last March 19 by Indiana center Roy Hibbert and he missed the next four games.

Vucevic said this concussion was totally different because he battled headaches in the days after his fall. However, there was no nausea and the headaches subsided after a couple of days. Vucevic also lauded the Magic medical staff for taking his injury seriously and not rushing him back.

``I don’t worry about (the second concussion) because it happened in games when I got hit in different ways. Last year I got hit in my jaw. And then this year I fell on my head. They weren’t too bad and they were just regular concussions where it took time to heal,’’ he said. ``I did all of the steps and there were no symptoms and that’s the most important thing. We really took our time because we didn’t want to get me out there and have a setback because then it would take longer. Everybody has been very patient with me.’’

As for the rest of the season, Vucevic said he thinks his conditioning will return quickly. He only wants to get back when he’s 100 percent so that he can continue his personal improvement and help the Magic put together a successful run over the second half of the season.

``I feel like I was playing pretty good and that I’ve played better than I did last season. I want to keep improving and getting better,’’ he said. ``We’ve had a lot of injuries and we’d have a better record if we didn’t. But it is what it is. With the way the East is, maybe we still have a shot to get close to the eighth seed. We had that tough stretch with 10 losses in a row, but we’ve played better. If we can stay away from injuries, we can have a pretty good rest of the season.’’