A bang-bang play late in the third quarter of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s blowout win over the Phoenix Suns on Thursday left rookie Terrance Ferguson laid out on the court and teammate Steven Adams frantically waving for the medical staff to come attend to him.
With just over three minutes to go in the third and the Thunder holding a commanding 18-point lead, Ferguson guarded rookie Suns guard Shaquille Harrison as he cut to the basket for a bounce pass from center Alex Len. As Len threw the pass, Adams sagged off and reached with his right hand to try to deflect it away from Harrison; in the process, he leaned directly into the path of Ferguson, who was rushing to recover the step he’d lost to the slicing Harrison.
The side of Ferguson’s head smacked directly into Adams’ forehead, sending the rookie crumpling to the court, seemingly unconscious. Adams knew something was wrong immediately, leaning over Ferguson with one hand on his chest and the other waving to the Thunder bench for assistance.
Before long, thankfully, Ferguson was back on his feet and, with some help, able to head off the court to the locker room. He wouldn’t return for the final 15 minutes of the game, finishing with two points and one steal in 11 minutes of play as the Thunder cruised to the victory.
After the game, Thunder head coach Billy Donovan announced that Ferguson had been placed in the NBA’s concussion protocol, and that the team would know more about his status for the upcoming schedule pending further evaluation on Friday. That evaluation revealed that, yep, Ferguson’s got a concussion:
Terrance Ferguson has a concussion, the Thunder announce. Per usual for concussions, no timetable.
— Fred Katz (@FredKatz) March 9, 2018
The league’s concussion protocol, put in place back in 2011, mandates that players suspected of having concussions are removed from participation and monitored by team medical personnel. Those officially diagnosed with concussions are prohibited from returning to play until they can successfully complete the protocol’s return-to-play criteria:
1. He must be without concussion-related symptoms at rest;
2. He must have been evaluated by a physician;
3. He must have successfully completed the NBA return-to-participation exertion protocol, which involves several steps of increasing exertion: from riding a stationary bike, to jogging, to agility work, to non-contact team drills, with the player needing to be symptom-free to move on to the next step;
4. A team physician must have discussed the return-to-participation process and decision with the Director of the NBA Concussion Program, Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher, with the final call coming from the Thunder’s physician.
The 6-foot-7 swingman, who skipped college last season in favor of playing professionally in Australia before entering the 2017 NBA draft, has had an up-and-down rookie campaign in which his role and playing time have fluctuated. He’s averaged just under 10 minutes per game since the start of February. There’s plenty of promise in Ferguson’s frame and game — as evidenced by his highlight-packed 24-point performance in a blowout win over the Los Angeles Lakers back in January — but also, as you might expect from someone who’s still two months shy of his 20th birthday, some rough edges to sand down.
Even as he works through his freshman inconsistency, though, Ferguson’s an important piece for a Thunder team that’s gone .500 since Feb. 1, that’s in the middle of a dogfight for playoff positioning in the crowded Western Conference, and that can ill afford more injuries on the wing after losing starting swingman Andre Roberson for the year. His absence takes one more potential rotation helper away from Donovan and company at a time when Oklahoma City’s trying to get on steady footing and make a strong stretch-run push into the postseason.
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