The Indiana Pacers won’t know until Saturday night whether point guard George Hill will start in Game 6 against New York.
Hill participated in the team’s morning shootaround, which is part of the process of passing his concussion test. But doctors had not yet cleared Hill to play.
”He just did some work today. He looked fine, but he has to do more tests this afternoon,” coach Frank Vogel said. ”There’s a long list of things that’s part of the NBA’s protocol. He’s in the middle of that process. He’s not ruled out, not cleared to play. He’s a game-time decision.”
Vogel said he was preparing to play without Hill.
Hill scored 26 points Tuesday night in Game 4 after a first-quarter collision with Knicks center Tyson Chandler. Two days later, after the team’s shootaround, Hill was still complaining of headaches. Team doctors then diagnosed him with a concussion, forcing him to sit out Game 5. His replacement, D.J. Augustin, played nearly 39 minutes and had no assists as the Pacers lost 85-75. The win allowed New York to climb back within 3-2 in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals.
Indiana gets a second chance to close out the series Saturday at home, where they are 5-0 in the postseason and have won all five games by double digits.
Vogel has not said who will start Saturday if Hill does not play.
”We prepare for guys to be out. D.J. Augustin, Ben Hansbrough. Lance (Stephenson) understands that he has to play some (point guard),” Vogel said. ”They’ve prepared for that all year. . Mentally for those guys, knowing might help them a little bit.”
The Knicks aren’t sure what to expect, either.
Coach Mike Woodson told reporters Friday that his team was preparing as if Hill would play. At Saturday’s shootaround, Woodson explained he wasn’t sure what to expect, though the Knicks couldn’t let that affect them in Game 6.
”It doesn’t matter who plays for them. We’ve still got to do what we do. It’s about what we do at this particular time,” Woodson said.
The NBA’s protocol states that any player diagnosed with a concussion must be held out of all activities until he is symptom-free at rest and team doctors see no ”appreciable” difference between the players’ baseline test conducted before the season and the test after the injury.
Then the player must prove he is symptom-free as the level of exertion increases. Team doctors can determine whether the player passes, a decision that must be discussed with Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher, the NBA’s director of the concussion program.
The league has not established a timetable for how long players must sit out before returning because each injury is different. Sometimes, the recovery time is quick. Kobe Bryant, for instance, did not miss a game after breaking his nose and being diagnosed with a concussion in February 2012.
”I know back in the day I took some blows and you could’ve easily called it concussions. But hell, you just played,” Woodson said. ”That’s the policy and I think it’s a good policy because, again, this is still a basketball game and you’ve got to deal with your health. That’s more important.”
Leaving one looming question: Will the decision about Hill make a difference in this series?
”Finding out literally an hour or two hours before the game (Thursday) is a rough spot to put a guy in. For all of us, really,” Pacers forward David West said. ”We had to change some of the things we were accustomed to doing, take some of George’s stuff out of the package. But again, we’re prepared. Had a good day yesterday, a good day today. Our focus is where it needs to be.”