UPDATE 2:13 pm, MARCH 11: Jabari Bird suffered a concussion in Friday night's Pac-12 Tournament semifinal game against Oregon and is listed as day to day, a Cal spokesperson told BearTerritory. Bird, who was averaging a team-best 23.0 points per game in the Pac-12 Tournament, left the court 65 seconds into the game after falling, head first, to the floor. He was evaluated by T-Mobile Arena doctors and later taken to a hospital for concussion testing. Bird will be evaluated daily to determine his availability for the postseason.
LAS VEGAS -- It's hard to find a player in California's locker room not shaken by what happened just 1:05 into the Golden Bears' 73-65 Pac-12 Tournament Semifinal loss to No. 5 Oregon on Friday. It's also hard to find a player who's been influenced, in some way, by Bears senior Jabari Bird.
As Ducks forward Jordan Bell pump faked under the basket, Bird left his feet, and as Bell rose up, Bird got caught on Bell's right hip, upending the 6-foot-6 Salesian, Calif., native, and sending him to the ground, headfirst. The tumble opened up a gash on the side of Bird's head. After Bird got to his feet, a Gatorade towel was draped over his head, and trainers worked to stanch the bleeding on the bench. Bird was eventually taken to the locker room, to be evaluated by the medical staff on hand at the T-Mobile Arena.
He was then taken to the University Medical Center at UNLV, where he would undergo concussion protocol. Should the Bears make a postseason tournament -- be it the NIT or the NCAA Tournament -- it's unlikely that, if Bird has a concussion, he would be able to play.
"I saw him on the ground, I didn't know what was going on," said sophomore forward Ivan Rabb. "We didn't really have time to really think about it."
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1761954-not-with-a-bang-bu...Bird had scored 20 and 26 points in the previous two games. He had just played his two best games, arguably, of his career. A source inside the locker room said that Bird was "hungry, fired up," to get on the court against Oregon. After Cal's upset win over No. 4-seed Utah on Thursday, Bird spoke plainly: "They didn't punk us," Bird said. "Up at their place, they really got into us. They brought the game to us, and we didn't respond. And today, we remembered that game."
Bird had memories of his own, too, fueling him this week.
This wasn't the first postseason injury Bird has suffered. 10 minutes before tipoff of last year's No. 4 vs. No. 13 NCAA Tournament match-up with Hawaii, back spasms sent Bird to the trainer's room. Cal limped to a 77-66 loss to the Warriors in Spokane, Wash.
It stuck in Bird's craw.
"To not be out there, and to see them go out there and then lose that game, it hit me hard, because I felt like it was my fault, that I wasn't out there," Bird said before this season began. He "attacked the weight room" every day, took better care of his body, made sure that what happened a year ago wouldn't happen again. Fate had other plans.
When asked if he feels jinxed, head coach Cuonzo Martin said, "Not at all, not at all. It's part of the game. Not at all. You have 13 scholarships, NCAA allows you 13 scholarships. My job is to have 13 guys ready to play. So we have enough, we just came up short. Not at all, it's part of the game."
Bird's quotes from our preseason feature, once a call to arms, of a sorts, now land like gut punches from lead-lined boxing gloves:
"We're worried about him," Rabb said on Friday. "We played hard. We played together. We did a lot of good things. It's part of the game, like my coach said. Next man up."
With Bird out, the scoring fell to Columbia graduate transfer Grant Mullins. In 39 minutes, Mullins set a career high with 23 points, going 7-for-8 from the floor, and 5-of-5 from three-point range. He didn't miss a shot until there were 19 seconds left in the game. Those numbers felt hollow to Mullins, and not just because of the final score. Mullins had to fill the hole left by his roommate.
The reason that Mullins transferred from Columbia in the first place was the fact that the Ivy League does not allow graduate students to play varsity sports. He had missed his whole junior season with head and neck issues, stemming from a concussion suffered when he tripped in a game against Princeton as a sophomore. It was Bird who, on Mullins's official visit last April, told the Burlington, Ontario, native, "We need you."
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1761992-postgame-video-ore..."He was saying positive things about the school, how they needed me to come in," Mullins said. "He gave me the ins and outs of the plays we run, and what practice is going to be like, and he made the adjustment a bit smoother."
Two months later, the two were roommates, in an apartment on Dwight Way, a 10-minute walk from campus. The two were put together by the Cal coaching staff. Mullins replaced Jordan Mathews, both as Bird's roommate, and a three-point sniper. This season, Mullins has shot 40.8% from beyond the arc.
"When I moved in and came to Berkeley, he made me feel like I was one of the guys, right away," Mullins said. "It sucks to see him go out like that. I've dealt with it. I just really hope he's OK."
Bird continued to find ways to bring Mullins into the fold.
Bird is a four-year starter who's scored 1,227 points in his career, a 37% three-point shooter who's been through a career arc that has gone from McDonald's All-American to borderline pro prospect (and even then, likely overseas). He's the emotional core of the Bears.
Freshman Charlie Moore -- another cross-country transplant -- said that Bird has been like a big brother to him.
"I'm praying for him," said a sullen Moore. "I hope it's not bad. Knowing Bird, he'll be ready for the next game."
With Moore coming from Chicago out to the West Coast, adjusting to life away from home -- including his father, who suffered a stroke during Labor Day weekend, 2015 -- Bird has been an anchor.
"He's a great guy, he talks in practice, he talks to me, teaches me the defensive side of the ball, and he gives me confidence on the offensive side -- tells me to play my game," Moore said. "Just having him not out there today was tough for us. We've been out to eat with each other, to the movies, always hanging out. Just being with him helps me feel comfortable."