Sunday was supposed to serve as a revenge game for Kemba Walker. Instead, it was former Boston Celtics guard Terry Rozier who got the last laugh. Rozier dropped 21 points as the Charlotte Hornets handed the Cs their third loss over their last four games.
To make matters worse, a new injury concern arose for the commonly-hobbled Walker.
With 8:18 left in the first half, Walker headed to the locker room clutching his left side after coming up awkwardly while attempting to defend a Rozier triple.
Thankfully, the scare didn’t last long. Walker trotted back on the court later in the second quarter, showing no obvious ill-effects from the injury. He would go on to finish the game with 20 points, six rebounds and four assists in 29 minutes of action. With that said, the 30-year-old point guard admitted to reporters following the game that he was still feeling some symptoms from the injury — although pinpointing what actually occurred is still a bit of a puzzle.
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Kemba Gives Details Injury: ‘I’m Still Hurting’
“I can’t really explain it, to be honest,” Walker said of his injury. “I don’t know. Just felt some weird pain on my side. Can’t really explain it. It was pretty painful at the time.”
“I’m fine right now, but I’m still hurting a little, to be honest. I guess I’ll get some better information on it tomorrow (Monday),” he added. “Just watch the situation and see how I feel when I wake up — but I’m ok.”
Walker may have only been in the locker room for about 10 minutes, but that’s quite a long time for Celtics fans to hold their breath.
“They came back and said he was fine and good to go from there,” head coach Brad Stevens told reporters of Walker returning to the game. “I don’t know if he felt like he pulled something or was just uncomfortable in that instant but right when he raised his hand to challenge that shot, he grimaced and said something like, ‘get me out.’ That’s why we had to stop the clock.”
Flashes of Prime Kemba
After a slow start to the season, Walker has seen his play surge of late, serving as a major catalyst in Boston’s recent turnaround that consisted of a six-game win streak. Over the veteran point guard’s last 10 games, the Celtics own a record of 8-2. During that span, he’s averaged nearly 18 points and six assists per game, including a brilliant 32-point showing in a major victory over the Phoenix Suns this past Thursday.
Yet, while Walker has remained adamant that his surgically repaired knee is no longer a concern, the Celtics continue to err on the side of caution, holding the UConn product out of back-to-backs. Walker did not suit up for Boston’s five-point loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Friday and has now missed 10 games since making his season debut in mid-January.
Yes, the ideology behind keeping an aging, undersized, injury-riddled point guard fresh for the postseason is sound on the surface. However, with a conglomerate of teams boasting similar records vying for the last handful of playoff spots in the East, keeping a leash on Kemba may not be feasible for much longer.
As Walker’s teammate Jaylen Brown detailed to reporters after the loss to the Hornets, the last thing the Celtics want is to find themselves in a play-in game.
“To be honest, looking at the standings right now you don’t know where anybody’s going to end up,” Brown said, via Boston.com. “One, two and three are all close. Four, five and six is right there, and seven, eight, nine, 10 all have to be play-in games, so we don’t know where things might end up… But yes, to answer your question, we want to stay away from those play-in games.”