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According to the Associated Press, New Orleans guard Chris Paul is back at practice, but has not yet been cleared to play. Paul suffered a mild concussion last Sunday, and is scheduled to undergo a neurological exam on Friday.
Paul’s injury puts the Hornets in a tight spot. The dangers of playing with concussions are well-known now, and Paul is obviously extremely important to the Hornets’ long-term plan. On the other hand, the Hornets are currently in a brutal race for playoff positioning. Only a few games separate the Hornets, Nuggets, Blazers, and Grizzlies, so every game counts for New Orleans at this point in the season.
The Hornets were competitive against the Bulls and managed to pull off a miraculous comeback win against the Mavericks without Paul, but it would be foolish to assume that they can play at a high level without him for long. Paul has had an up-and-down season, but he is still one of the best point guards in the game and the Hornets’ franchise player.
It’s a good thing that the NBA appeares to be taking concussions very seriously, because head trauma has become a prevalent theme in recent weeks. The latest victim: New Jersey Nets rookie Damion James, who suffered a serious, Grade 1 concussion that will keep him sidelined for a few games. From Conor Orr of the Star-Ledger:
During today’s shootaround, Avery Johnson offered a little insight into the concussion suffered by Damion James. Unlike the one Anthony Morrow suffered Friday — which was only a mild concussion that had no lingering symptoms — James’ concussion sustained Saturday is far more serious.
“He still has headaches, he still has a concussion,” Johnson said. “It’s not concussion-like symptoms, he has a Grade 1 concussion.”
As has been made abundantly clear through a number of related NBA injuries and the innumerable concussions suffered in the NFL, this is nothing to mess around with. The Nets are wisely approaching James’ concussion with the appropriate gravity, but even more important than this specific instance is the acknowledgment that there could be some negative systemic factors at work. Good on the league for addressing an issue that’s sadly common.