The scariest moment of the 2019-20 NBA season happened last week in Denver when Boston Celtics guard Kemba Walker had to be taken off the court on a stretcher with an apparent neck injury.
Walker collided with a teammate, forward Semi Ojeleye, hitting his head and neck awkwardly before collapsing to the ground. While lying on the court, Walker showed signs of movement and in the following days, it was revealed Boston had dodged a major bullet.
After a week of wondering how long the Celtics’ star would be sidelined, it appears Boston will be getting the new face of the franchise back on Wednesday night against the Brooklyn Nets.
The team announced on Tuesday the game statuses for its four injured players for Wednesday’s matchup with Brooklyn, listing Walker as ‘probable’ with a neck sprain.
The three other injured Celtics players, Gordon Hayward (hand), Romeo Langford (ankle), and Daniel Theis (illness) are all unlikely to play. Theis is listed as questionable and may be a game-time decision based on how he feels in the morning shoot-around.
With Walker back in the fold, the Celtics assigned rookie guard Tremont Waters to the Maine Red Claws, Boston’s G-League affiliate. Waters made his NBA debut on Monday against Sacramento and showed some flashes of development in meaningful minutes.
Kemba In, Kyrie Still Out
The Celtics acquired Walker as a means of replacing the production of star guard Kyrie Irving, who now plays for the Nets.
With this date circled on the calendar for the entire season as the point when the Celtics would face their former player, it appears that reunion will have to wait. Irving is nursing a shoulder injury as the Nets are now without him and fellow new signing Kevin Durant for the interim.
There are some, like former Celtics’ big man Kendrick Perkins, who feels Kyrie is faking his shoulder injury to avoid a trip back to Boston.
Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson is adamant his star point guard is hurt and defended him last week when asked about the injury, stating “I don’t think it’s something he can play through right now. The shoulder is a sensitive spot, especially for a point guard — you’re like a quarterback.”
Are the Celtics Better off without Kyrie?
The Celtics have embraced its young, new nucleus this season and have ridden that to a 12-4 start to the season. Boston has taken more of a team-oriented approach, even with a star guard like Walker on the team who is willing to spread the ball around.
Boston general manager Danny Ainge admitted the team should have made more roster moves last season to provide support for Irving, Hayward, and the rest of the starters. It also forced head coach Brad Stevens to tinker more with the rotation of players that featured a logjam at guard.
Boston bowed out of the playoffs in the second round last year, it’s earliest playoff exit in two seasons. Irving had checked out of Boston before the Celtics were even eliminated and would likely have faced the music in his return.