CHICAGO –- Hornets coach Monty Williams wasn’t happy to be facing Chicago at United Center on Saturday without rookie big man Anthony Davis, who was kept back in New Orleans for further testing after suffering a mild concussion in the first half against Utah on Friday.
It was teammate Austin Rivers‘ inadvertent elbow that clipped Davis in the side of the head, putting him out of what became an 88-86 loss. But it was the NBA’s precautionary concussions policy that prevented Davis from flying with the team to his hometown — his only scheduled appearance of 2012-13 in Chicago — and will sideline him until he satisfies the requirements of physical testing and a neurological exam.
Now, please know that Williams was mindful of the NBA’s fining power when he spoke with reporters before the game. But as he spoke, he revved up a little and he didn’t mince words.
“When you’re dealing with the brain, I guess what’s happening in football has affected everybody,” the Hornets coach said. “You treat everybody like they have on white gloves and pink drawers. It’s getting old. But it’s just the way the league is now.”
Williams also said: “It’s a man’s game and we’re treating these guys like they’re five years old.”
Rivers sounded surprised that Davis got hurt at all. “I feel bad, because we both closed out [defensively on an attacker] at the same time,” the rookie guard said. “I don’t know how – he’s 6-9 – I don’t know how his face hit my elbow.”
That was that, though. A history of serious head trauma, especially in the NFL but across sports, led the NBA to examine its teams’ treatment of concussions. Prior to last season, the league installed a formal policy with which all players must comply. Some return to action quickly, others endure longer layoffs. The Hornets got snagged because they had back-to-back games this weekend and there wasn’t enough turnaround time, no matter how “normal” Davis feels 24 hours later.
“I’m not saying I don’t like it,” Williams said. “We’ve got to protect the players. But I think the players should have more say-so in how they feel. I’m sure I had four or five concussions when I played, and they didn’t bother me.
“The NBA is doing what’s necessary to protect the players. But this is not the NFL. You don’t get hit in the head that much. So I understand it, but as a coach, I’m a baby about it. I want my guys ready to play.”
Especially this guy – Davis, pro-rated to 36 minutes, has averaged 24.3 points, 10.9 rebounds and 2.5 blocks, while shooting 55.6 percent from the floor (10-for-18) and a perfect 9-for-9 from the line in his 1 1/2 appearances. And especially against this team – the Bulls have a strong frontcourt and scored 115 points on 63.8 percent shooting at Cleveland on Friday. They started Ryan Anderson in Davis’ spot next to center Robin Lopez.
Said Williams: “That’s basically the bottom line. I’m a baby.”
Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980.