BOSTON — The dichotomy between Boston Celtics point guards past and present was highlighted a bit Wednesday morning before the Kyrie Irving-less Brooklyn Nets visited the Kemba Walker-led Celtics.
Walker, less than five days removed from a scary collision that caused him to be stretchered off the court in Denver, stood in front of reporters for the first time since the incident and expressed his dismay at having to miss a single measly NBA game on Monday out of an abundance of caution.
Barring an unforeseen setback, Walker will be on the court Wednesday night after the one-game absence that ended his streak of 158 consecutive games played. Irving, of course, will not be on the court as he sits out this road trip — one with stops at his former homes in Cleveland and Boston — due to a right shoulder impingement.
In this era of load management — or in Irving’s case, as some on Twitter have playfully suggested, maybe it’s loathe management — Walker simply does not subscribe to missing games for any reason.
"I was pissed about [missing Monday’s game],” Walker said. "I’m not gonna lie. I was really pissed about that. I wanted to play. I wanted to keep the streak alive. I can’t lie, I was pissed. But I guess it was gonna happen at some point.”
Walker experienced tingling and numbness in his fingers after running with his head down into Semi Ojeleye on Friday night. After passing a battery of tests in both Denver and Boston, he was officially diagnosed with a neck strain and never entered the league’s concussion protocol. Team doctors suggested that Walker go through an offday practice Tuesday before being fully cleared to return to action.
On Wednesday, Walker admitted there were some tense moments initially, though he never feared for his long-term health.
"It was a scary moment for myself. When I was in the moment it was pretty tough to be in, obviously,” said Walker. "I know it was scary for everybody. It was tough, but thank God I’m OK.
"Some numbness in my fingers. It went away pretty fast. I think that’s what got me the most nervous when I was on the ground. But, yeah, it went away. They just wanted to make sure I was good, I was safe. So they kept me from moving and put me on a stretcher, obviously. But yeah like I said, thank God I’m OK and it wasn’t as bad as it looked.”
Walker said Boston winning on Monday night against Sacramento made it a little easier to have to watch. In fact, he took in most of the Celtics-Nuggets game while getting checked out.
"I watched a lot of it,” said Walker. "I know those guys came back. They gave an unbelievable effort. I’ve been a part of games like that where somebody’s been hurt really bad and they’ve been through a lot of emotion. I know the way that looked, for those guys on the other end, it can be tough to finish the game. Definitely a lot of credit to those guys for just sticking the game out and playing til the end.
"I sent those guys a text and let them know I was OK and I was really proud of them for the way they responded through the emotion.”
Walker said that Ojeleye shouldn’t feel bad for his role in the collision.
“He's strong as hell, I'll tell you that,” said Walker. "I know it was tough for him, as an individual, for him to be the one for me to run into. I know he was pretty sad about it, which I understand why, but he shouldn't have. He didn't have to be. It was kind of a freak accident, you know? Semi, he's such a great dude. I'm just glad to know it was cool. He was pretty upset about it but, like I said, there's nothing he could've done in that moment. It just kind of happened.”
Now Walker is ready for Game 1 of a new streak.
"I can play through a lot,” said Walker. "Like I said, I just have a strong love for the game, a passion for the game. So I love to play every single night. That's really why I play. I like to compete.”
Get ready for Celtics-Nets Wednesday night with Celtics Pregame Live at 6 p.m., then check in with Halftime Live and wrap it up after the game with Celtics Postgame Live, all on NBC Sports Boston or stream them here through the MyTeams App.