You knew it was pretty serious when Doug McDermott couldn’t even take his free throws after landing on his side and banging his head on the unforgiving United Center hardwood Saturday night.
McDermott entered the NBA’s concussion protocol for the second time in a young season after his attempted dunk resulted in McDermott hitting his head, putting his status for the Bulls’ six-game circus trip in doubt.
He initially got banged on a play against the Brooklyn Nets, causing him to enter the concussion protocol and he missed the Bulls’ close loss to the Boston Celtics on Nov. 2.
“He’s not gonna travel on the initial part of the trip,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He’s still having symptoms, so we’ll leave him back. Took a heck of a fall and banged his head on the floor. He’s still a little groggy.”
McDermott has played more consistently to start the season, especially with his role as the first reserve off the bench midway through first quarters to spell Dwyane Wade and giving the Bulls a more floor-balanced, conventional lineup.
He hasn’t yet matched last season’s 42.5 percent 3-point clip but scoring in double figures in five of the nine games he’s played has shown a certain comfort level. Safe to say, the Bulls have come to depend on what McDermott can provide in terms of shooting.
The NBA doesn’t have the same spotlight on it like the NFL does, as football is inherently more violent. But Celtics All-Star center Al Horford has missed seven straight games with a concussion he suffered in practice before the Bulls and Celtics played in Boston—the game McDermott initially missed.
According to the protocol, McDermott, like any player who suffers from a concussion, “will have to complete a series of steps to confirm that he's healthy enough for competition,” the NBA rules states. “Once he is free of symptoms, the player must make it through increasing stages of exertion - from a stationary bike, to jogging, to agility work, to non-contact team drills - while ensuring the symptoms don't return after each one. Then the neurologist hired to lead the NBA's concussion program needs to be consulted before the player is cleared.”
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With that said, Hoiberg termed McDermott “doubtful” for the first couple games on the trip, as the Bulls will play Portland on Tuesday and go to Salt Lake City to play the Utah Jazz Thursday.
“That’s the way it works. He was seen by our team doctor this morning.” Hoiberg said.
With his absence, players like rookie Denzel Valentine and Paul Zipser along with Jerian Grant could get opportunities—in fact, it’s likely one if not all will get a fair shot at decent minutes.
“Prime example of keeping yourself ready and being ready when your name is called and going out and making a contribution to help your team win,” Hoiberg said.
Valentine missed games in the preseason after spraining his left ankle in the preseason opener, while Zipser and Grant are itching for a chance to make an imprint.
“Denzel, Paul with certain matchups on this trip…,” said Hoiberg, citing Thursday’s matchup against Jazz forward Gordon Hayward, an athletic wing player Zipser can match up against. “Denzel was really good in practice today. Excited to see him get an opportunity. Their time is coming. Denzel is a prime example.”