Celtics

Celtics Spotlight: What would define a successful first season in green for Kemba Walker?

Celtics Spotlight: What would define a successful first season in green for Kemba Walker?

The Kemba Walker era in Boston will officially begin later this month, a period of time full of promise and potential for both Walker as well as the Celtics.

He has a four-year deal worth more than $140 million and has won over his teammates and coaching staff alike. And he’s a hell of a player who is coming off a season in which he was named to the All-NBA Third Team.

When it became clear that Kyrie Irving’s days in Boston were numbered, there was not a clear path anyone could find at that moment that could have made fans actually feel better about the team’s prospects going forward. But with the play of Boston’s young core of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown continuing to show growth as well as the newcomers through the draft and free agency, the Celtics have a roster built to contend with some of the better teams in the East.

But their success ultimately comes back to how good Walker is, both in terms of his play as well as his leadership. 

It's a successful season for Walker if ...

Boston finishes among the top two or three teams in the Eastern Conference. To do so would mean Walker played at a level comparable or better to what he has done in past years. It would also bode well for the Celtics’ future with Walker at the helm. He signed a four-year, $140.8 million deal with Boston this summer. Delivering a top-3 finish and putting up numbers comparable or better than what he normally does, is an absolute win-win for both Walker and the Celtics. 

It's a disappointing season for Walker if ...

The Celtics season resembles past seasons for Walker while playing in Charlotte. In eight seasons, the Walker-led Hornets made the playoffs twice and failed to get out of the first round in both instances, which isn’t all that shocking considering they were the lower seed. Boston should finish with home-court advantage at least through the first round of the playoffs this year. And remember, he’s joining a Celtics team that has gotten out of the first round each of the last three seasons, something only Golden State and Houston can also lay claim to among NBA teams. Joining a team with that kind of pedigree, one in which most of the principal pieces to that period of success are still around, should make the path towards continuing that round of postseason success more likely than not to continue. But if the Celtics fail to get out of the first round and the usual finger-pointing begins when a team fails to live up to the expectations of many, chances are high that Walker will get a good portion of the blame pie. 

2019-2020 Outlook

Walker will be named to the NBA’s Eastern Conference All-Star team for the fourth consecutive year, playing a pivotal role in the Celtics remaining firmly in the hunt for the best record in the Eastern Conference up until the latter portion of the season. Boston’s success in recent years has been fueled in large part by the team’s point guards having career-like seasons, whether it was scoring (Isaiah Thomas) or shooting efficiency (Kyrie Irving). But what will really stand out about Walker will be his assist numbers, which should reach career-high proportions. He has never averaged more than 6.1 assists per game. But with more scoring talent around him and an increased desire to get his teammates involved, better assist numbers will be part of the “new” Kemba Walker.  

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Celtics vs. Trail Blazers live stream: How to watch NBA game online

Celtics vs. Trail Blazers live stream: How to watch NBA game online

The Boston Celtics will look to bounce back against the Portland Trailblazers after falling to the Los Angeles Lakers 114-112 on Sunday.

Unfortunately, the C's will once again be without starting point guard Kemba Walker as he'll miss his third game in a row due to knee soreness. Robert Williams remains out of the lineup, but noted it shouldn't be too long until he makes his return.

Boston will be looking to young stars Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum to lead the way in Walker's absence while also hoping Gordon Hayward gets going early after a 29-point performance against the Minnesota Timberwolves last week.

Here's how to watch Celtics vs. Trail Blazers, including NBC Sports Boston's pregame coverage, beginning at 9 p.m. ET.

HOW TO WATCH

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ANALYSIS AND REACTION

BEFORE THE GAME: At 9 p.m., Celtics Pregame Live presented by TD Bank gets you ready for the game with reports from Kyle Draper, Brian Scalabrine, Michael Holley, Chris Mannix, Chris Forsberg and Abby Chin. Watch on NBC Sports Boston or click here for the live stream.

AT HALFTIME: Tune in to watch a breakdown of the first two quarters on Halftime Live presented by Ace Ticket. Watch on NBC Sports Boston or click here for the live stream.

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Brad Stevens addresses whether Kemba Walker played too many minutes in All-Star Game

Brad Stevens addresses whether Kemba Walker played too many minutes in All-Star Game

Kemba Walker will miss his third straight game for the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night as he continues to recover from a left knee injury.

Walker logged 29 minutes during the NBA All-Star Game, but experienced soreness and swelling in his knee afterward that has prevented him from suiting up with the C's. That begs the question, should Walker have gotten as much playing time as he did?

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens addressed that question Tuesday on 98.5 The Sports Hub's "Zolak & Bertrand."

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"That's a good question," Stevens said. "I don't know. I think the biggest thing -- and I said this last week or whatever -- if our medical staff and/or Kemba would have thought that there was any way that he would have come back with more soreness and more swelling, he wouldn't have played. He wouldn't have chose to play. Like, he's not going to do that. So I think it was an unfortunate deal that, you know, the swelling happened. That was kind of the difference in how his knee presented versus how it presented in the past. And it was pretty significant.

"We knew he was going to be out a little bit here, but now what we've tried to do is say OK, what's the best way so we don't play the back-and-forth game? And so that we can have him feeling great and you're not in as much of a day-by-day, 'OK how's he feeling today? How's it going to present tomorrow?' So he's focused in the last three days in really strengthening."

Stevens also reiterated that he doesn't expect this to be a long-term issue with Walker.

"No, he's had regular scans on that really ever since he got back from USA Basketball just to continue to make sure. And by regular, I mean maybe once every other month or once every month-and-a-half. So no, nothing structurally."

Watch below:

Stevens hasn't ruled Walker out for Wednesday's game against the Utah Jazz, though it's more than likely he'll miss his fourth straight contest.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Trail Blazers, which begins Tuesday at 9 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 10 p.m. You can also stream on the MyTeams App.