Anfernee Simons Returns to Trail Blazers Practice, Nearing Return
Plus, Jerami Grant enters the concussion protocol.
TUALATIN, Ore. — One of the time-honored traditions of an NBA season is a player accidentally letting slip something about another player's injury. In answering a question Monday about the Trail Blazers' just-wrapped four-game road trip, Malcolm Brogdon mentioned in passing that Anfernee Simons has returned to practice after being out since opening night with a thumb injury.
"We're putting together games now where most of our guys are back on the floor," Brogdon said. "Now having Ant back, we're going to be able to shoot the ball better, get better shots, see our percentages go up."
Wait. So does that mean Simons is going to play in the Blazers' next game, on the road at Golden State on Wednesday?
"I hope so," Brogdon said. "Hopefully in the next few games. He looked good in practice. We'll see."
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Simons suffered a torn ligament in his right thumb on Oct. 25, during the Blazers' season-opening loss to the Clippers. He underwent surgery the following week and has been out since then as Portland has gotten off to a 6-13 start to the year. When he had the surgery, the team gave him a six-week timeline to return to action. In recent weeks, he's progressed to doing ballhandling and shooting work, a sign that his hand is improving.
At the Blazers' last home practice on Nov. 24, Simons spoke to reporters for the first time since the injury.
“It was definitely frustrating, obviously, seeing your team struggle a little bit and not being able to pull out close games,” he said then. “Those are the times where you kind of get, you know, I wouldn’t say frustrated, but you wish you could be out there for sure, especially in those tough games.”
Returning to full participation in practice was the last hurdle to clear before Simons could potentially return in the near future, once the team's medical staff signs off on it.
"He looked alright," head coach Chauncey Billups said. "It's day-to-day. I hope so. Stuff like that, the proper protocol is what I have to follow. I don't like following no protocol. But I've got to respect the game."
If Simons doesn't play Wednesday in San Francisco, the Blazers' next game will be at home on Friday against the Jazz. This week's games are the two late additions to the schedule after the field of eight was set for the In-Season Tournament's knockout stage, which kicks off tonight. The Blazers did not qualify.
In a rare development in the thick of the season, the Blazers will have two practice days in a row before their next game. That's two chances for Simons to get more work in before a decision about possibly playing Wednesday or Friday.
Whichever day it ends up being—one of those two or one of the games next week—it's not going to be much longer.
"The good thing is we've got some time," Billups said. "We have two practices this week. I'm happy about that. But his conditioning looked pretty good. I feel good about it, but we'll see."
Jerami Grant enters concussion protocol
In less positive injury news, the team announced on Monday morning that Jerami Grant has been placed in the NBA's concussion protocol. He exited Saturday's loss in Utah after a head-to-head collision with Omer Yertseven as the two battled for a rebound.
"I feel bad for Jerami," Billups said. "Get banged like that on a dude flopping. He's had headaches. Not his best days ever. But he's going to be OK."
Grant was not at the practice facility on Monday and will need to clear the league-mandated steps in order to return. His status for Wednesday's game against the Warriors is not determined; given that it's a one-game road trip this soon after the fact, it seems unlikely he'll be cleared to travel or play. Billups said on Monday that he hasn't decided yet who will start in Grant's place if he can't go; the likeliest choice would seem to be Jabari Walker.
"We've got it under control," Billups said. "When you have a concussion, the lights and stuff [can be hard]."