Tyreke Evans caught a break.
Or rather, it's good news that he didn't. X-rays on the injured jaw that forced the Rookie of the Year frontrunner into the locker room late in the fourth quarter against Milwaukee Bucks on Friday revealed only bruising that will keep him sidelined for one week, according to initial reports.
Had he suffered a fracture of the jawline, he would've almost surely missed the remainder of the season, since team doctors would likely not have allowed the franchise star to play with his mouth wired shut à la Kings assistant coach and former player Shareef Abdur-Rahim during the 2005-06 season (my personal favorite anecdote is that the never outspoken Abdur-Rahim somehow managed to earn a technical foul in his first game with his mouth wired closed). As it stands, in addition to lacerated gums and two fractured teeth, Evans suffered a concussion after getting hit with a vicious inadvertent elbow from Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova.
The 20-year-old will be reevaluated in the coming days, and presuming he has no setbacks, the one-week minimum diagnosis puts his return to action on March 28 against the Cleveland Cavaliers for the final nine games of the season. It's not inconceivable that he'd be held out for precautionary reasons for the duration of the upcoming road trip that begins against the league-worst New Jersey Nets on March 24 and finishes a week later in Minnesota, in which case the Kings would only have six games remaining on the schedule. The question then becomes, should Evans be shut down for the rest of the year?
The cuts and bruises will soon heal, and Evans' toughness and pride, as well as having the indestructible Carl Landry as a teammate, suggests that he'd opt to return as soon as he'd be cleared for action. But at this point in the year, there is little reason for the Kings to rush Evans back and risk further injury that can have a lasting impact on his health and career.
Concussions are a dangerous and still relatively unexplored territory for the NBA that cannot be taken lightly. Evans never lost consciousness and left the court on his own power after getting hit, and does not play as aggressively and recklessly as the Bobcats' Gerald "Crash" Wallace, the NBA's poster boy for head trauma with at least four known concussions in the last five years. Although such injuries have not been as prevalent in the NBA as in the much more physical NFL, where countless players have been forced into early retirement after multiple blows to the head, recent studies have warned about the long-term effects and have indicated that a player who's suffered a concussion is far more susceptible to another one in the future on less impact.