There was a little bit of a delayed reaction from NBA headquarters to New Orleans coach Monty Williams’ public criticism of the league’s concussions policy – Williams made his comments Saturday in Chicago and his $25,000 fine wasn’t announced until Tuesday evening.
Maybe a slightly dulled response time seems in order, given the subject matter.
Williams was facing a difficult situation – a road game, the second of back-to-back dates, against the Chicago Bulls without prized rookie big man Anthony Davis. Davis was back in New Orleans because, the night before against Utah, he took an inadvertent elbow to the side of his head from teammate Austin Rivers. Davis was diagnosed with a mild concussion, and that made him subject to the league’s protocols for such injuries – including no air travel, a series of tests and a neurological exam before he could be cleared to play again.
That wasn’t happening overnight; in fact, Davis, despite the “mild” label, still hadn’t been cleared Tuesday to play in the Hornets’ home game against Philadelphia Wednesday. So Williams, about 90 minutes before tipoff at United Center that night, was feeling the competitive tug.
Hang Time was there for his remarks and can vouch for the fact that Williams wasn’t tricked into his critical comments. He waded in, eyes – and now wallet – wide open:
“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.”
Following the NFL and the NHL and concerns about head traumas in those and other sports, the NBA instituted its policy before the 2011-12 season. It wasn’t an instant hit with all coaches or players, but it did err on the side of caution on injuries that be dangerous, tough to assess and vary dramatically.
The New Orleans coach had more to say:
“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.”
As it turned out, the rest of the Hornets were – they jumped on Chicago early and won 89-82. Williams’ first priority likely is Davis’ long-term health and availability, but in the moment Saturday at United Center, it didn’t sound like that. And the NBA answered back Tuesday.
Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980.