C.J. Watson is ready to return from a one-game absence but will sit out due to concussion-like symptoms on Wednesday night when the Chicago Bulls take on the Milwaukee Bucks at the United Center. It will mark both teams' last game before the All-Star break.
The Bulls' backup point guard suffered the injury when he banged into New Jersey Nets forward Kris Humphries in the third quarter of Saturday afternoon's disappointing 97-85 loss and was held out of Monday's matinee. The NBA's concussion policy, which went into effect at the start of training camps, has prevented Watson from returning to the court.
The protocol calls for a player diagnosed with a concussion to meet a certain criteria to confirm that he's healthy enough for competition. As soon as the player is free of symptoms, he must pass increasing stages of exertion -- riding a stationary bike, jogging, agility work and participating in non-contact team drills -- and ensure the symptoms don't return. Then, the player needs to be consulted by the neurologist hired to lead the league's concussion program before he is cleared.
Watson, who is averaging 10.4 points this season, expects to be prepared to play in Chicago's next game on Tuesday night against the New Orleans Hornets.
"C.J. is ready to play now but is following the NBA rules regarding concussions," a spokesperson from Allegiant Athletic Agency, which represents Watson, told me Wednesday afternoon. "The Bulls have been in constant communication with us and we all expect him to be back as soon as possible."
Meanwhile, as expected, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters after the morning shootaround that his star point guard, Derrick Rose, will play in his second game in a row against the Bucks after missing five straight because of lower back spasms. Over the past two days, Thibodeau has repeatedly said his starting point guard has "felt fine" and is taking steps in the right direction.
On Monday, Rose dropped 23 points, six assists and five rebounds in his first contest since Feb. 8. He's putting up 22 points, 7.7 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game this season.
The Bulls would improve to 27-8 with a win over the Bucks and they know how important it is to stay focused given the fact that the All-Star Weekend is a mere two days away.
"You try to live in the moment as hard as possible. You want to have a couple days off but you can't think about that," center Joakim Noah told Bulls.com's BullsTV after Monday's 90-79 victory over the Hawks. "We have one more game and we're trying to get some good momentum going into the break. So it's a huge, huge game against the Milwaukee Bucks."
- With Hawks guard Joe Johnson out of the Three-Point Shootout, as well as the All-Star Game, because of tendinitis in his left knee, Kyle Korver and Watson were viable replacement options. Both believed they had a strong chance to be in the competition but were snubbed last week. However, the league selected Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo and Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant to replace Johnson on the Eastern Conference All-Star team and in the shootout, respectively.
- Bulls free-agent target Joel Pryzbilla has signed with the Portland Trail Blazers, his longtime former club. Chicago general manager Gar Forman has continually said the team will acquire a reserve big man at some point during this campaign.