The absence of Kyrie Irving at the TD Garden in Boston on Wednesday night may be overshadowed by the expected return of another point guard as the Celtics host the Brooklyn Nets for the first time this season.
Kemba Walker has been ruled probable for the contest by the Celtics after missing just one game since he was stretchered off the court Friday night in Denver after colliding with teammate Semi Ojeleye. Walker was diagnosed with a neck sprain, and coach Brad Stevens termed it a “minor miracle” that the injury was less serious than it first appeared.
Irving, meanwhile, won’t travel with Brooklyn due to a shoulder injury that has sidelined him since Nov. 14. The trip to Boston would have been the first for Irving since his two-season stint with the Celtics came to an end when he signed a four-year max contract with the Nets this past offseason.
Despite Irving reneging on previous comments he made about staying in Boston, the Celtics have moved on. With Walker now at the point, the team got off to a 10-1 start, and though it has stumbled of late — with losses in three of its last five — the air around the locker room reportedly carries a much more positive feel, even if the players won’t explicitly say as much.
“No comment,” Jaylen Brown said Friday when asked if he felt like he could better be himself without Irving around. “Next question.”
Brown similarly shrugged off the fact Irving wouldn’t play Wednesday when asked about it following a 103-102 win over the Sacramento Kings on Monday. “We’ll catch him next time, then,” Brown said.
Next time might not be so far away. The Celtics and Nets will face off again in Brooklyn on Friday afternoon, and Irving has yet to be ruled out for that game. But the Nets might not feel the need to rush him back, having won five of their last six without him in the lineup.
In that time, Spencer Dinwiddie has been stellar starting in Irving’s place. He has led the Nets in scoring five times during their 5-1 run, including 23 to go with the game-winning jumper in a 108-106 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday.
“I think about Spencer playing so well right now, when Kyrie comes back what does that look like?” said coach Kenny Atkinson. “Is Spencer coming to start? You have (Garrett Temple) with the defense. There’s a lot (of options) … which is a good problem to have.”
Dinwiddie, for his part, seemed more focused on the result than his role.
“If we’re winning, championship-type level, I’m going to be real happy,” he said. “If we’re getting our heads cracked, I’m not going to be real happy, and that’s starting or coming off the bench. It’s pretty simple for me.”
Winning has been hard to come by for Brooklyn against Boston in recent seasons. The Celtics have won 11 of their last 13 meetings, including six straight at home.
Big man Daniel Theis is questionable for Boston on Wednesday with an illness. DeAndre Jordan (left ankle soreness) is questionable for Brooklyn.
–Field Level Media