DENVER — Celtics point guard Kemba Walker suffered an apparent head injury when he collided with teammate Semi Ojeleye with just more than three minutes left in the second quarter of Boston’s game against the Nuggets on Friday.
But some potentially good news came out about a half-hour later, when the Celtics said that Walker was being transported to a local hospital to be evaluated for concussion-like symptoms.
Walker was leaning over and reaching for a loose ball when he collided headfirst with Ojeleye’s midsection. He immediately crumpled to the ground and the Celtics called a timeout moments later. As medical personnel tended to Walker, members of team security near him held their fists in the air to indicate the need for a stretcher.
Walker was surrounded by his teammates and coaches as he was strapped into a stretcher. After about five minutes, he was wheeled off the court and given a standing ovation by Denver’s fans.
When the replay of the collision was showed on the stadium’s video board a few moments later, there was a collective gasp.
Just over two years ago, the Celtics watched in horror as Gordon Hayward suffered a gruesome ankle fracture in his Celtics debut against the Cavaliers. Ojeleye, the most deeply religious player on the Celtics, led the others in a prayer then, and he did the same on Friday night, this time after the injury occurred in an inadvertent collision involving him.
If Walker is sidelined for an indefinite period, coach Brad Stevens would likely turn to either Marcus Smart or Brad Wanamaker as his starting point guard. The Celtics received some good news this week, when Hayward, who is still recovering from surgery to repair a broken hand, started shooting again. He is expected to return in a few weeks.
That will give a great boost to the Celtics, but that’s probably the least of Boston’s worries right now.
Walker signed a four-year, max-salary contract with the Celtics last summer, greatly lessening the sting that came from Kyrie Irving’s departure to join the Nets. Walker was a three-time All-Star during his eight-year tenure with the Hornets, but he never won a playoff series there.
As the Celtics surged to an 11-3 start this season, Walker spoke with great joy about the chance to play with so many talented players, and he was eager to find postseason success for the first time.
Walker entered Friday night averaging 22.6 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game this season.