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Kelly Oubre Jr. slated to return after going through concussion protocol

Kelly Oubre Jr. #3 of the Phoenix Suns slam dunks the ball over Nikola Vucevic #9 of the Orlando Magic during the second half of the NBA game at Talking Stick Resort Arena on January 10, 2020 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the Magic 98-94. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Kelly Oubre Jr. knows the signs.

The Phoenix Suns’ high-energy wing suffered a concussion in the NBA before, so when things weren’t right in the second half of a loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday, he knew what was up.

In the mid-first quarter of that game, Oubre took a hit from Hawks big man John Collins.

Oubre appeared to be trying to shake it off and said Monday at shootaround that the hit came to an area that had been sore, but the concussion symptoms didn’t hit right away.

He went on to play 38 minutes in that game, clearly not right, shooting 4-for-16 from the field.

Oubre was placed under the NBA’s concussion protocol, which had him miss road games in New York and Boston.

He traveled with the team but had to watch the game from the hotel against the Knicks. He is probable for Monday’s game at home against the San Antonio Spurs.

“I’m feeling good man,” he said. “The past couple days, just kinda been trying to find myself mentally, just make sure my body is feeling good and all that.”

The protocol is extensive and requires Oubre to wait 24 hours until after the initial hit to begin it. That time included plenty of staff members checking in on Oubre, who would have to slowly ramp himself up physically to make sure everything was a go.

Head coach Monty Williams is aware of the dangers concussions present athletes and said it was a matter of patience to get Oubre back.

“You just wait,” he said. “There’s not much for me to do. I just sit and they tell me when he can play.

“It’s a sensitive subject, concussions, when you look at guys in football and even some of the stories I’ve heard from guys in basketball that have had problems with it. So, you just have to wait until they pass all of the tests and that’s all I could do.”

Oubre had to take some tests on the computer, like those memory games you’ll see played in arenas by keeping track of where the right card pairings are.

The timing has some deja vu to it, as when Oubre was traded to the Suns last December, he also watched the Suns play in a New York hotel room against the Knicks before going to Boston.

Oubre was obviously watching these games and itching to get back out there, seeing where he could make an impact.

But fortunately for him and his team, the Suns went 2-0 without their starting small forward, thanks in large part to the play of his replacement, Mikal Bridges.

The Suns outscored teams by 28 points in the last two games when Bridges was on the court, including the Boston win, when Bridges had a career-high 26 points and six three-pointers.

“I love to see it,” Oubre said of Bridges. “I love to see his confidence growing, he’s continuing to find himself in this league. It’s his second year in the NBA so it’s going to be a gradual process and he’s going to continue to do so. But he’s just a pro’s pro so it’s expected but I expect more too.”

With the way Williams has been open to making rotation changes based on how good or bad the rhythm of the team is, it’ll be curious to see if he pulls the trigger on bringing Oubre off the bench.

That’s a lineup some fans believed before the start of the season was the best way to go for Phoenix due to how much Oubre’s scoring could help the second unit and Bridges’ defensive presence impacts the game out of the gates.

Williams hasn’t been afraid of similar moves, such as bringing Deandre Ayton off the bench, so keep an eye out prior to tip-off to see his decision.


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