It’s good to have him back. —Jazz head coach Quin Snyder
SALT LAKE CITY — There weren’t many positives to take from the Utah Jazz’s 109-94 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Monday night at Vivint Arena, but one certainly was the return of backup point guard Raul Neto after more than a month on the bench.
In the first quarter of the Jazz’s Dec. 9 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, Neto was hit in the face by Bucks big man Thon Maker, causing him to fall to the floor. The incident ended up being a triple whammy, as Neto sustained a concussion, as well as a bone bruise and MCL injury in his left knee.
The injuries wound up going hand-in-hand to prevent Neto’s return. Utah’s PR staff has repeatedly said that Neto stayed sidelined because he hadn’t passed the NBA’s concussion protocol, but it was because of the knee injuries that the Brazilian guard was unable to do so.
Neto said after Monday night’s game that he stopped feeling the effects of the concussion after about a week, but was unable to progress in the protocol, which includes several steps of exertion, from riding a stationary bike to jogging to agility work to non-contact team drills to a regular team practice.
Players must be symptom free before moving on to the next step, and a team physician must essentially get approval from the director of the NBA concussion program, University of Michigan-based Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher, before a player can return to action.
Neto didn’t officially practice with the team for the first time since the incident until Sunday.
“It’s kind of annoying, but I think they’re just trying to protect the players and not have bad injuries with concussion,” he said of the protocol. “I think that’s why they do it, to protect the players.”
On Monday night, Neto played the final 3:18 of the first quarter and then nearly nine minutes in the fourth. He finished with five points and three assists.
“It’s good to have him back,” Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said. “It’s just another player who has an opportunity to play well. Raul is a solid player and he has the ability to impact the game defensively. We just need him to be sound and solid and play his game.”
Neto’s return comes at an interesting time for Utah. Starting point guard Ricky Rubio is struggling, but starting two-guard Donovan Mitchell has been playing an increasing number of his minutes as the floor general.
In his third season, Neto has shown to be steady if not spectacular, and is hoping to make an impact throughout the rest of the season.
“Just do whatever I was doing before I got hurt,” he said. “Just playing the minutes that they put me on the court, giving my 100 percent and just try to help the team get more wins.”