Lakers play Larry Nance Jr. through concussion, Luke Walton praises his toughness

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The Lakers watched Larry Nance Jr. hit his head on the court. They called timeout. They had a trainer examine him.

And they left him in the game with a concussion.

Of course, they hadn’t yet diagnosed him with a concussion – which is the problem. When Nance suffered the injury against the Suns last week, the Lakers either violated the NBA’s concussion protocol, showed it to be toothless or both.

Nance dove for a loose ball late in the first quarter, and his head ricocheted off the floor while he was fouled. He appeared to be in considerable pain, and the Lakers called timeout. Nance remained in the game for two free throws, and the Lakers apparently planned to intentionally foul afterward to sub him out – though that took 13 seconds. After Jordan Clarkson finally committed a foul, Nance took a seat on the bench.

The NBA concussion protocol states:

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.

There seems to be an implied “as soon as possible” with that.

The Lakers didn’t remove Nance from participation as soon as possible. They could have pulled him during the stoppage before his free throws.

They didn’t evaluate him in a quiet, distraction-free environment as soon as possible. Once he finally left the game, he took a seat on the bench.

And if they didn’t suspect he had a concussion after this crash to the floor, there are other issues. That level of monitoring would be negligent.

Why make a big deal about those free throws and the ensuing 13 seconds? Dr. Ben Wedro of the DocTalk blog on MDDirect.org, addressed it last year:

“The concern is something called second-impact syndrome,” Wedro said. “And that says that, if you have a brain that is concussed and has not healed, it may not be able to protect itself against a second injury as well, and you can get swelling of the brain that spins out of control and people die. This is a rare situation. Some people believe it does not exist. Other people do. But that’s the concern – that if you stack concussions, that disaster can happen.”

With the ball in play, the Lakers had no way to keep Nance suitably safe. What if he missed the second free throw and the ball bounced back toward him? A collision going for the rebound could have turned catastrophic. Even a partial defensive possession, with Phoenix dictating the action, could have produced tragic consequences.

That was the downside. The upside? A slightly better chance to win the game.

If the Lakers pulled Nance before his free throws, he would have been disqualified from the rest of the game, and Phoenix could have put the Lakers’ worst free-throw shooter from the bench on the line. But so what? Nance’s long-term health is more important than one game – a belief the concussion protocol was designed to institutionalize.

The protocol is necessary to fight a culture in professional sports that playing through pain is always admirable. It’s not. Head injuries are different. Yet, Lakers coach Luke Walton perpetuated the idea concussions are like any other break, scrape, bruise, strain, pull or tear.

Mark Medina of The Orange County Register:

Since then, Lakers coach Luke Walton raved about Nance’s “basketball IQ,” “pride in doing the little things” and making a pair of foul shots despite his dire medical state.

“He’s a tough kid. He’s a skilled kid,” Walton said. “He got up there, did what he had to do and walked off. He wanted to keep playing.”

So much so that it took Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson 13 seconds to foul so Walton could remove Nance from the game.

“They didn’t foul because he told them all that he was good,” Walton said. “When I tried to take him out, he tried to argue his case to stay in. But we took him out.”

Nance missed a loss to the Mavericks two days later then returned to the lineup two days after that. It seems this was handled correctly in the aftermath, but it should have been dealt with better during the game.

The NBA should have a stricter policy for removing a player suspected of having a concussion. Potentially, the league should allow players in Nance’s situation – who are suspected of having a concussion and due for free throws – to return if an evaluation doesn’t return a concussion diagnosis. This example shows we’re probably not ready to trust teams about removing players suspected of having concussions from play.

Teams are “punished” for suspecting a player has a concussion. Too often, they pretend not to hold the suspicion in order to keep the player on the court.

It’s bad enough when it happens in the NBA Finals. That it happened in a November game shows the stakes matter only so much.

The league has problems dealing with concussions, and the protocol – whether because it’s too vague or not properly adhered to – hasn’t solved it.

NBA G League cancels remainder of season

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The NBA G League shut down play in mid-March, at the same time the NBA did after the positive coronavirus test of Rudy Gobert. However, without a big television contract or much gate revenue, there wasn’t the motivation to restart the G League season, as the NBA is doing.

Thursday the G League made the expected official, canceling the remainder of its season. It will finish without crowning a champion.

“While canceling the remainder of our season weighs heavily on us, we recognize that it is the most appropriate action to take for our league,” G League President Shareef Abdur-Rahim said in a statement. “I extend my sincere gratitude to NBA G League players and coaches for giving their all to their teams and fans this season.  And to our fans, I thank you and look forward to resuming play for the 2020-21 season.”

The Wisconsin Herd (33-10) and Salt Lake City Stars (30-12) finished the season with the best records.

The G League did take care of its players, which was the right thing to do.

With the NBA starting next season in December, the G-League will follow that schedule, with games through the winter and spring. There is a real possibility of expanded NBA rosters next season due to coronavirus fears, which will impact G League rosters as well, but there are a lot of details still to be determined.

Goodbye NBA regular season, hello NBA ‘seeding games’

Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo
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The NBA regular season is over.

The league’s statement on its plan to resume the season made that abundantly clear.

The 22 continuing teams will play exhibitions, eight “seeding games” (not regular-season games) and maybe play-in games.

NBA release:

Each returning team would play eight seeding games, as selected from its remaining regular-season matchups.  At the conclusion of the seeding games, the seven teams in each conference with the best combined records across regular-season games and seeding games would qualify for the playoffs.

The 14 NBA Lottery teams would be the eight teams that do not participate in the restart and the six teams that participate in the restart but do not qualify for the playoffs.  These teams would be seeded in the lottery and assigned odds based on their records through games of March 11.  The 16 playoff teams would draft in inverse order of their combined records across regular-season games and seeding games.

Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press:

So, the lottery odds are set for the Warriors, Cavaliers, Timberwolves, Hawks, Pistons, Knicks, Bulls and Hornets. The Wizards can’t tank their way past Charlotte and Chicago.

That’s a good setup, which raises a question: Why doesn’t the NBA freeze records for the lottery with a month left in normal seasons? By not doing so, the league creates conditions for an annual tanking wasteland.

Calling these “seeding games” also positions the league to hold award voting soon. The NBA’s major awards – Most Valuable Player, Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Most Improved Player, Sixth Man of the Year, All-NBA, All-Defense, All-Rookie, Coach of the Year – are regular-season awards. If the regular season is over, those can be picked now. That could be a good way to fill time and attract attention before play resumes.

This is probably mostly semantics.* The term “seeding games” allows the NBA to differentiate these games for the lottery and awards.

*It could also allow the league to cancel more regular-season games and expand force majeure. But owners would still have to negotiate with players on how to pay them for these new “seeding games.” So, that’s probably a wash.

The term also makes enough sense. The 22 continuing teams are playing for seeding.

But what happens if two teams clinch certain seeds before their scheduled seeding game? Would that game still be played?

I’m confident the answer would be yes, even if “seeding game” would no longer be accurate.

“Tune-up games to generate more revenue” just isn’t as catchy.

Report: NBA sets dates for draft (Oct. 15), free agency (Oct. 18), next season (Dec. 1)

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NBA owners have decided to finish the season by holding games between July 31 and Oct. 12.

Now, the surrounding key NBA dates for training camps, free agency, NBA draft and the start of next season are filling in.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The NBA’s reported tentative plan to open next season on Christmas? It was apparently pretty tentative.

A Dec. 1 start to next season would mean an incredibly short break for teams that advance deep in the playoffs. But the NBA is already spending a lot of time not playing games and making money. There’s an urgency to getting revenue flowing.

There will also be a massive disparity in time off between the eight done teams and continuing teams for the key NBA Dates. Who knows how that will affect next season? This is an unprecedented situation.

Which is a good reminder: Coronavirus can disrupt the best-laid plans.

NBA owners approve 22-team format for resuming season with only Trail Blazers opposing

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We already knew many key details of the NBA return format plan for the season:

  • Only the top 22 teams will continue.
  • Games will be held at Disney World in Orlando.
  • Each team will play eight more games (maybe with this schedule).
  • If the ninth-place team is within four games of the eighth-place team after those eight games, there will be a play-in series between the eighth- and ninth-place teams. To advance, the ninth-place team must win two games before the eighth-place team wins one.

Now, that plan is one step closer to becoming reality.

Per Shams Charania of The Athletic, the NBA approved a 22-team playoff format:

It’s shocking the Trail Blazers, owned by Jody Allen, cast the protest vote. Portland – currently outside playoff position – will resume with a real chance to make the playoffs. What more did the Trail Blazers want?

Players must still approve the NBA return format plan. National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts said they wouldn’t necessarily vote on it. Union leadership has worked closely with NBA commissioner Adam Silver, certainly agreeing on the system before having owners vote on it.

However, given the NBPA’s haphazard methods for polling the larger membership, I’m not sure how widespread support is. There is room for significant disagreement on how players – continuing vs. non-continuing – will have their salaries affected.

Still, I expect players approve the plan, maybe tomorrow.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

Everything is just too far down the road to turn back now. The financial incentives are too high not to keep trying to play. Silver has successfully rallied nearly everyone toward uniting.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Most of the remaining issues are minor details… like codifying a plan for health and safety.

Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press: