Clippers violate NBA’s concussion policy, play Austin Rivers with concussion

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The nasty truth about concussions: Player suspected of suffering a concussion often pass a medical evaluation shortly after whatever caused the suspicion.

How do you treat those players?

If they have a concussion, re-inserting them into the game would be dangerous. If they don’t have a concussion, keeping them from the game would hinder their team.

I believe players should be kept from returning to participation the day they’re suspected of having a concussion, even if they clear initial testing. The risk is just too great. The NBA’s concussion policy allows them to return.

That’s a value judgment, one where I and the league disagree.

But the absolute minimum is properly testing players suspecting of having a concussion as soon as possible, and the NBA’s concussion policy demands that. We can differ on protocol after a passed test, but sometimes, players fail the initial test. It’s imperative that test be done in accordance with the league’s policy.

Yet, that too often doesn’t happen.

The Cavaliers didn’t immediately evaluate Kevin Love after he showed numerous concussion symptoms in Game 2 of last season’s Finals. The Lakers had Larry Nance Jr. play through visible concussion symptoms before removing him from play to evaluate him.

And the Clippers failed to properly test Austin Rivers for a concussion during Saturday’s game against the Pelicans.

Rivers took an elbow to the head from Terrence Jones in the third quarter and went to the floor. Rivers didn’t look well and held his hands to his head. The Clippers realized something was wrong, removing him from the game. He continued to look distressed on the bench, clutching the towel he draped over his head.

And apparently, the Clippers made the completely logical judgment: Rivers might have suffered a concussion. We know this because Clippers coach Doc Rivers said Austin was tested for a concussion on the bench and passed the test.

So, Austin returned to the game to start the fourth quarter and soon lost his bearings. It was a scary sight, and the Clippers wasted no time getting him out of the game then.

Again, the NBA’s policy will allow concussed players to sometimes play. They just must pass an evaluation prior to returning.

The problem was Austin’s evaluation. The concussion policy says (emphasis mine):

If a player is suspected of having a concussion, or exhibits the signs or symptoms of concussion, he will be removed from participation and undergo evaluation by the medical staff in a quiet, distraction-free environment conducive to conducting a neurological evaluation.

The bench at an NBA arena during a game is not a “quiet, distraction-free environment conducive to conducting a neurological evaluation.”

Would the Clippers have identified Austin’s concussion if they tested him in the locker room? We’ll never know. Perhaps, his symptoms were delayed and wouldn’t have registered there either. But that environment would’ve given doctors the best chance to correctly diagnose him.

I don’t believe the NBA’s concussion policy goes far enough, but when not even that is followed, it puts players at far too great of risk.

PBT Extra: LeBron as MVP and other NBA postseason award predictions

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Last year, Russell Westbrook had a historic season on his way to the MVP award, with James Harden and Kawhi Leonard right on his heels. But heading into this season, the dynamic for MVP — and many of the NBA awards — feels very different and wide open.

In this latest PBT Extra, I lay out my preseason predictions for every award — LeBron James for MVP, Ben Simmons for Rookie of the Year, and on down the list. There are a few leaps and surprises in there (predicting Most Improved or Sixth Man before the season is a crap shoot, so why not gamble).

Now the predictions season is over, let’s get on to the games.

Jazz: Dante Exum undergoing surgery after shoulder injury

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Jazz point guard Dante Exum hurt his shoulder in a preseason game – an injury that immediately looked like it could be season-ending.

Though Utah doesn’t outright say Exum is done for the year, this doesn’t engender much hope.

Jazz release:

The following is a medical update on Utah Jazz guard Danté Exum who suffered a separated left shoulder on October 6 vs. Phoenix.

After further evaluation, Exum (6-6, 190, Australia) has elected to undergo surgery to stabilize the AC joint of his left shoulder. The surgery is scheduled to take place Tuesday, October 24 in Los Angeles. Further updates will be provided when appropriate.

Exum (obviously) didn’t receive a contract extension before today’s deadline, so he’ll become a free agent next summer. After one full missed season already and two years of limited effectiveness, it’s not even clear Utah will extend Exum a qualifying offer to make him a restricted free agent. The former No. 5 pick almost certainly won’t meet the starter criteria, which means his qualifying offer would be worth $4,333,931 (down from $6,619,903 based on his draft slot).

The Jazz will start Ricky Rubio, and Raul Neto will be the primary point guard behind him. Wings Rodney Hood, Alec Burks, Donovan Mitchell and Joe Ingles can all share facilitating duties.

Utah will probably be just fine without Exum this season, which speaks to his marginal place long-term.

Sprained ankle has LeBron James questionable for opener vs. Celtics

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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — LeBron James‘ playing status for Tuesday’s season opener against Boston remains unclear.

James has been slowed by a sprained left ankle for more than two weeks and it’s still not known whether he’ll be on the floor when the Cavaliers take on the Celtics and Kyrie Irving, who asked to be traded by Cleveland this summer.

Following Monday’s practice, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said “I really don’t know” when asked if James will play.

James took part in some post-practice shooting drills with teammates. He did not speak with the media as the Cavaliers prepared for their opener, a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference finals.

James has never missed an opener in his NBA career, and teammate J.R. Smith doesn’t expect him to miss this one.

“Oh, he’s going to go,” Smith said. “He’s going to go, trust me that. I don’t care what he’s got to do, he’s going to play.”

 

Report: Richard Jefferson signing with Nuggets

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Update: The Nuggets will waive Jameer Nelson, according to Wojnarowski:

It looks like Denver will ride with the younger Jamal Murray and Emmanuel Mudiay at point guard — a risky proposition. Nelson stabilized the position in the event Murray or Mudiay weren’t ready for bigger roles. The Nuggets aren’t hedging their bets now, which puts plenty of pressure on Murray and Mudiay.

Murray should be fine eventually. Mudiay’s promise is far less certain. But this is a team trying to reach the playoffs now, and it might have to ride out growing pains from its point guards without Nelson as a safety net.

 

Richard Jefferson became a late entrant into free agency when the Cavaliers traded him and the Hawks waived him.

But the forward is landing on his feet.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Jefferson could help the Nuggets, who look primed to end a four-season playoff drought. They were set to squeeze backup small-forward minutes behind Wilson Chandler out of the undersized Will Barton and oversized Juan Hernangomez. Jefferson is far more comfortable at the position.

He’s 37 and doesn’t offer long-term upside, but he’s a savvy defender and still pretty athletic. He picks his spots well enough offensively to help on that end, too.

But Denver also has a deep roster that already had 15 players on standard contracts. There’s not an obvious cut to make room for Jefferson, though the Nuggets clearly have something planned.