ORLANDO — Celtics point guard Kemba Walker finished third among Eastern Conference guards in fan voting for the NBA All-Star Game, but his first-place finishes in the player and media votes were enough to vault him past Kyrie Irving and make him an All-Star starter for the second consecutive year.
Fan voting accounts for half the vote totals, while players and a pool of media members account for one-quarter apiece. Walker said it was most meaningful to be recognized by his peers.
“It means a lot,” he said. “To me personally, there’s nothing more than the respect of the guys you play against every night. I have to thank those guys of course for voting me in. I saw that I was first for the players and media, so thanks to those guys.”
Walker said that when the first fan voting returns were released a few weeks ago, he saw that he was third behind Irving and Hawks guard Trae Young, but he did not pay much attention to the tallies after that.
He said that since he is not as active on social media as most players, he was surprised he was not even lower in the vote. But he is thrilled.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “I’ve come a long way, so it’s a special honor to be able to start among the best players in the world. To be named a starter, it’s an unbelievable accomplishment. So, it’s cool.”
Walker proved worthy of the honor by collecting 37 points and six assists Friday in the Celtics’ 109-98 win over the host Magic.
The Celtics are hopeful that Walker will be joined on the East roster by teammates Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Both are expected to be considered for reserve spots by the coaches. Those results will be released next Thursday.
“That would be great,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “Jaylen and Jayson are both very deserving. And at the same time, as I’ve told them many times, it’s not about being named an All-Star, because that’s very subjective. It’s about playing like one.
“I think they both are very, very deserving. They’ve had great years, they’ve shown great growth, and regardless if they get named or not, I don’t really care because they’re All-Stars in our book.”
Tatum said he is a bit nervous about the selection, but is also trying not to think about it, because he has no control.
Brown said he is pleased to be in the conversation.
“I think it’s dope,” he said, “especially coming off a season like last year, being in the mix is a win for sure. For me, it’s just continue to get better, continue to play the right way, and everything else will take care of itself.”
Aching to play
Tatum (groin), Brown (ankle), and center Enes Kanter (hip) all missed Friday’s game against the Magic. Tatum said he underwent an MRI that did not show any issues.
“Being cautious,” he said. “I still feel it a little bit. I’m feeling better, so, feeling better every day.”
Tatum was injured while driving in the third quarter of Boston’s win over the Grizzlies Wednesday.
“I knew something happened,” he said. “It was painful. It was the first time I’ve ever felt that. But it’s nothing too serious. So that’s good.
Stevens said Kanter, who was injured diving for a ball in the Memphis game, will likely miss the next two games and be evaluated. He is not with the team on the road trip at this point.
Brown took part in a lengthy workout after morning shootaround and was hopeful that he would be able to play against the Magic, but he was eventually ruled out.
“I want to be out there for my team,” Brown said, “but also if I don’t have what it takes, I won’t be doing anybody a service.”
Growing into role
Markelle Fultz, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2017 draft, has found a rhythm with the Magic after two disappointing seasons in Philadelphia. Fultz entered Friday averaging 11.9 points, 4.6 assists, and 3.5 rebounds as Orlando’s starting point guard.
“Steve Clifford is a great coach, and he fits really well with the way Steve likes to play, first and foremost,” Stevens said. “He’s a big, long guy. He’s a great defender, he can get into the ball, he can really be impactful off the ball, and then sometimes it’s just about finding an opportunity.
“You saw that this was going to be a great fit defensively, and as Markelle has grown comfortable and more comfortable on the offensive end, he fits in well with everything they’re trying to do.”
The Celtics traded the No. 1 overall pick to the 76ers in 2017 in exchange for the No. 3 pick and a future first-round choice. Boston selected Tatum and Romeo Langford with those two picks.
Fultz was good for 6 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists in the loss.