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Kemba Walker scores 39 after missing just one game with neck strain

When Kemba Walker went down in a heap after a head-first collision last Wednesday, there was palpable fear the All-Star point guard would miss significant time.

Turns out one game off was plenty.

Walker poured in 39 points in his first game back from an initially scary-looking neck strain, leading Boston past Brooklyn 121-110 on Wednesday. The veteran playmaker scored from everywhere on the floor, including a whirling, double-clutch layup that left no doubt as to his wellbeing.

Walker’s return was met with adoring cheers from the Celtics home crowd, which also produced jeers for the injured-and-absent Kyrie Irving. After an up-and-down two-year run with Irving, Boston allowed the All-NBA point guard to sign with Brooklyn during the offseason while pivoting to the acquisition of Walker from Charlotte.

The point guard swap appears to be working for Boston, which at 13-4 currently sits in second place in the Eastern Conference. Brooklyn (9-9) continues to adjust to its more star-oriented roster after a surprising playoff run last season.

For Walker, his new chapter is a refreshing one after seven years of being surrounded with subpar talent in Charlotte. Despite just three playoff appearances since 2004, Walker is the only Hornets draftee to make an All-Star game in that span.

Now the former ninth overall pick finds himself playing with Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart for a Celtics team hoping to pounce in the Eastern Conference. Walker is a key part of that push, averaging 22.3 points while shooting 40.4 percent from 3-point range.