SAN ANTONIO – When Aaron Gordon suffered a hit nearly a week ago that he still doesn’t quite remember, the Orlando Magic power forward suffered his second concussion of the season.
As it turns out, it was quite a hit for the Magic as well.
Gordon, Orlando’s leading scorer on the season at 18.3 points per game, will miss his third straight game tonight because he has yet to clear the NBA’s concussion protocol. Gordon practiced with contact on Tuesday in hopes of playing tonight when the Magic (20-47) face the Spurs (37-29) in San Antonio. He must be cleared by an independent, NBA-appointed physician before he can play again and since that’s yet to happen he will be out once again tonight.
“I always want to play. Always, always, always want to play and too bad I can’t play tonight,’’ Gordon said on Tuesday morning. “Let’s see if I can play against Milwaukee tomorrow (on Wednesday).’’
Gordon knows that the NBA’s concussion protocol is set up to protect him and that the Magic have his best interests at heart. Though he is eager to return as soon as possible, safety must be at the forefront, he said.
“Of course, you want to be safe. Better safe than sorry,’’ he said. “I feel OK, but protocol is protocol for a reason.’’
The Magic are on the final day of a 10-day, five-game road trip that has taken them from Utah to Los Angeles to Sacramento back to Los Angeles and finally San Antonio. Orlando is 0-4 in those games, losing in ugly fashion to the Jazz and Kings, while playing the Lakers and Clippers close before falling in heartbreaking fashion in the fourth quarter. Magic coach Frank Vogel is hopeful that his team can push through the fatigue of a long trip and beat the Spurs for a second time this season.
“If our guys are competitors, they won’t look at this as the last game of the trip, but an opportunity to get a win,’’ Vogel said. “You never want to go out to the West Coast and come back with an O-fer or without a single win. This is our opportunity to do that.’’
San Antonio lost in Houston on Monday night and has dropped five of its past six games. If the playoffs started today, the Spurs would be on the outside looking in. That’s significant because the Spurs haven’t missed the playoffs since the 1996-97 season – the longest such streak in either the NBA, MLB or NFL. The Spurs could potentially get superstar forward Kawhi Leonard back by the end of the week, but Vogel said it would be foolish to count San Antonio out now.
“It’s definitely unusual, but I wouldn’t count them out just yet,’’ Vogel said with a laugh.
Magic officials believe that Gordon suffered a concussion in the third quarter of last Wednesday’s 108-107 to the Los Angeles Lakers when he collided face-first with the shoulder of power forward Julius Randle. Gordon didn’t show any signs of a concussion at the time and finished that game strong, scoring a go-ahead layup with five seconds remaining to cap a 28-point, 14 rebound night. However, he began experiencing concussion-related symptoms later in the night and was placed into the league’s protocol for head injuries.
The NBA’s concussion protocol dictates that players must pass increasingly difficult tests without experiencing symptoms before receiving full clearance to return to game action. Gordon was first placed in the concussion protocol on Thursday and went through conditioning drills without incident on Friday in Sacramento. He was back on the practice floor on Monday in San Antonio and held out hope that he would be able to play tonight.
However, he did not receive final clearance from the league-appointed physician on Tuesday morning and he won’t play tonight. It’s the 21st game he will miss because of ankle, calf, hip and concussion problems this season. His other concussion this season came on Dec. 8 when he ran face-first into Denver guard Gary Harris – an injury that knocked him out of two games.
Gordon is hopeful that he can pass the final hurdle of the NBA’s concussion protocol – a memorization and recognition test – and play on Wednesday night when the Magic are back at the Amway Center to face the Milwaukee Bucks.
“Yeah, so I’ll take (the test) again tomorrow,’’ he said. “You take it once a day.’’
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