It looks almost certain that the Orlando Magic won’t have center Nik Vucevic when the Miami Heat try for their 27th consecutive win tonight.
Vucevic, who suffered a mild concussion on March 19, didn’t participate in the Magic’s shootaround this morning at Amway Center. Coach Jacque Vaughn said he didn't know whether Vucevic will be able to play tonight.
Vucevic averaged 22.5 points and 25.0 rebounds in two narrow losses to the Heat this season.
"We'll miss him a little bit, actually a lot," Magic point guard and co-captain Jameer Nelson said.
"We have nothing to lose to go out there and play as hard as we can and leave it out there. What they're doing is a great thing, and what we can possibly do would be a great thing."
Vucevic’s return will be governed by the protocol the NBA put into place in Dec. 2011 for players who have suffered concussions.
Physician Jeffrey Kutcher, the director of the NBA's concussion program and an associate professor of neurology at the University of Michigan, advises all league teams on the return-to-play schedules of players who have brain injuries.
All players undergo baseline neurological testing each year. They receive additional testing after they suffer a concussion.
Nelson has gone through the protocol before. On Jan. 27, 2012, he suffered a concussion — the third or fourth concussion of his Magic tenure. He was back playing again on Feb. 6, 2012.
Once doctors clear Vucevic to return, he still must receive a go-head from Vaughn to play again.
Vaughn has been cautious whenever players have been close to returning from injuries, and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if Vaughn exercises additional caution with Vucevic.
“We’re kind of undermanned again, but we’ve just got to go out there and just play together and play hard,” Magic rookie small forward Maurice Harkless said minutes ago.
“It’s going to be fun,” he added. “We’re going to try to do what I guess 26 other teams didn’t do. We’re going to go out here and play hard and try to get a win.”
Josh Robbins covers the Orlando Magic and the NBA for the Orlando Sentinel. You can reach him via e-mail at email@example.com and connect with him on Facebook at facebook.com/JoshuaBRobbins. Follow him on Twitter at @JoshuaBRobbins.