Tom Haberstroh

NBA Restart: Kemba Walker's knee among key Eastern Conference storylines

NBA Restart: Kemba Walker's knee among key Eastern Conference storylines

As the Boston Celtics prepare to resume their 2019-20 campaign on Friday night, the health of their star point guard is a major question mark.

Kemba Walker has been taking it easy on his nagging left knee, and that will continue in the C's first game back against the Milwaukee Bucks. Walker is expected to be limited to 15-20 minutes in the seeding round opener after playing only nine total minutes in the Celtics' three scrimmages.

Although both Walker and head coach Brad Stevens have downplayed Walker's knee issues, NBC Sports' Tom Haberstroh believes they're a real cause for concern in the long term. He explains why in his Eastern Conference Bubble Preview.

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"There’s no two ways about it: Walker’s knee issues should make Boston queasy," Haberstroh writes. "Smaller point guards that depend on lightning-quick movements can’t afford any breakdowns in the kinetic chain. With Rajon Rondo, Kyrie Irving and Isaiah Thomas’ injury issues at point guard over the years, we don’t need to belabor the point about smaller guys having flat tires."

Well, that certainly isn't what C's fans want to hear right about now.

Durability hasn't been an issue for Walker through his nine NBA seasons, but Haberstroh fears all the wear and tear on the 30-year-old's knee is starting to come to the forefront.

"The hope is that his mileage isn’t catching up to him, but there is real concern here from my perspective," Haberstroh adds. "With so much of Walker’s value tied up to one end of the floor, he can’t afford to be a step slow or limited in any fashion."

Haberstroh goes on to note that most teams are dealing with injuries in one way or another, but the Celtics will have to closely monitor Walker throughout the playoffs as they can't afford to have their prized free-agency signing re-aggravate the injury. Boston has $107 million due to Walker over the next three seasons.

Considering how cautious the Celtics have been with Walker in practice and in their three scrimmages, it'd be a surprise to see Stevens overwork Walker if the knee isn't at full strength. However, Stevens says Walker's knee is the "strongest it's been since he got here in September," so we'll just have to see what unfolds over the next one or two months.

You can read Haberstroh's full column here.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Bucks, which begins Friday at 5:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 6:30 p.m. You can also stream on the MyTeams App.

Top five 1-on-1 matchups we'd love to see Celtics players in

Top five 1-on-1 matchups we'd love to see Celtics players in

Twenty-four years ago, we were supposed to be treated to one of the most intriguing 1-on-1 matchups ever between NBA superstars Shaquille O'Neal and Hakeem Olajuwon.

In his latest column, NBC Sports' NBA insider Tom Haberstroh detailed what could have been a massive pay-per-view event featuring the two heavyweights. The "War on the Floor," as it was referred to, was moving toward being a great success until it was derailed by injuries.

But what if the idea were revived with some of today's biggest NBA stars participating?

Here are five 1-on-1 matchups we'd love to see the Celtics be a part of:

Kemba Walker vs. Kyrie Irving

You knew this one was coming. Kyrie Irving wants this matchup to happen, and so do we. Seriously, NBA, name your price.

Obviously, this matchup has plenty of intrigue due to Kemba Walker replacing Irving on the C's. But that isn't the only thing that would make a 1-on-1 between the two point guards interesting. Both are exceptional ball-handlers and shooters. We can assume there wouldn't be much defense involved, but no one is paying to see that anyway.

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Jayson Tatum vs. Bradley Beal

Our friends over in Washington D.C. agree this is the matchup that makes the most sense for Tatum. You probably know by now that Tatum and Beal grew up in the same city and attended the same high school, so that's the primary reason we'd love to witness this game of 1-on-1.

Beal has more experience under his belt as an NBA star, but Tatum made it clear just before the season was suspended that he can go toe-to-toe with his old St. Louis pal. Sign us up.

Marcus Smart vs. Patrick Beverley

Would this matchup give us the beautiful display of offense that the previous two matchups on this list would? Absolutely not. But would it be entertaining? Absolutely.

Smart and Beverley have similar reputations as disruptors on defense. Both have an uncanny ability to get under the skin of their opponents. So what would happen if the two went at it in a game of 1-on-1? There has to be at least a 50 percent chance a fight breaks out, right? We'll take those odds and pay to watch that matchup. Mic them both up for maximum entertainment too.

Jaylen Brown vs. Brandon Ingram

The Los Angeles Lakers selected Ingram with the second overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. Then, the C's took Brown at No. 3. The two forwards have been compared ever since, and it's fair to say they will continue to be compared for the rest of their respective careers.

Ingram (now with the New Orleans Pelicans) and Brown both were enjoying success prior to the 2019-20 season being suspended. We can debate who the better player is until the cows come home, but we'd rather just watch the two settle things in a game of 1-on-1.

Gordon Hayward vs. Tobias Harris

This definitely wouldn't be the main event for our hypothetical pay-per-view, but it would be an interesting matchup between two comparable players and Eastern Conference rivals. Hayward and Harris have similar career numbers and playing styles, so we'd love to see which player would come out on top in a good old fashioned 1-on-1 showdown.

Haberstat: Michael Jordan had crazy unbeaten streak vs. a former Celtic

Haberstat: Michael Jordan had crazy unbeaten streak vs. a former Celtic

Sherman Douglas had a solid if unspectacular NBA career over 12 seasons, several of which came in Boston.

The point guard known as "The General" burst onto the scene with the Miami Heat, averaging 16.3 points per game over his first two seasons and making the All-Rookie first team in 1989-90.

But there was one thing Douglas never accomplished in his career — beating Michael Jordan.

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Sure, a lot of players can say the same thing, but none with the longevity or the number of opportunities that Douglas had. The point guard played 30 games against MJ, and lost every single time.

NBC Sports NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh goes into further detail on Douglas' inability to beat Jordan in this week's Haberstat (video below).

A 30-0 clean sweep over a single player is by far the most lopsided matchup for any two players in NBA history. Larry Bird comes in second, with a 19-0 career mark against Major Jones, who played for the Rockets and Pistons from 1979-1985.

LeBron James had been in second place on that list, thanks to a career 28-0 record against Kemba Walker until the Celtics steamrolled the Lakers in January.

"I'm happy I got one at least before he goes," Walker said after Boston's 139-107 victory. "It's only one. 1-28. That's it."

That's still one more win than Douglas was able to get against Michael Jordan.