Atlantic Notes: Walker, Johnson, Tatum, VanVleet

Though Knicks point guard Kemba Walker just missed his third consecutive game (a 104-94 win over the Pacers) due to left knee soreness, team doctors have determined that there is no structural damage to the ligament that would require surgery, per Steve Popper of Newsday.

“He warmed up in OKC, tweaked something,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He’s got some soreness so we’ll let it clear up and then we’ll go from there.”

Thibodeau removed Walker, who had begun the 2021/22 season as a starter, from New York’s lineup entirely in late November. COVID-19 and injury absences necessitated a pivot, and Walker played well in his return. During his six games back, Walker averaged 19.3 PPG, 6.5 RPG and 6.0 APG for the Knicks.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Celtics All-Star wing Jayson Tatum discussed his experience with 40-year-old veteran swingman Joe Johnson, a former seven-time All-Star signed by Boston to a 10-day hardship exception. The team opted to not sign Johnson to a second 10-day deal after his first expired. “We all enjoyed the time that he was here,” Tatum said, per Jared Weiss of The Athletic (Twitter link). “The ultimate professional and somebody a lot of us look up to and obviously, we would have loved to [have] kept him around.” Johnson played in just one game during his 10 days with the team, scoring on his only field goal attempt. Tatum said that Johnson continues to watch Celtics games and that he and Johnson still text each other.
  • Tatum also noted that his body is in better shape returning from COVID-19 protocols this season, Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald tweets. The Celtics forward was hit hard by the novel coronavirus during the 2020/21 NBA season. “I feel a lot better with everything,” Tatum said, per Murphy. “My quarantine was shorter, my body feels a lot better, comparing my first couple of days back practicing than last year when I first came back.”
  • Raptors point guard Fred VanVleet is letting his play do the talking, emerging as a legitimate candidate to be named to his first All-Star team this season, writes Nekias Duncan of Basketball News. Duncan observes that VanVleet is one of just three Eastern Conference guards, along with James Harden and Trae Young, averaging at least 20 PPG and 6 APG, while boasting a True Shooting percentage of 58% or higher. VanVleet is averaging 21.3 PPG, 6.7 APG, and 4.9 RPG, with a 58.5% true shooting percentage, across 31 games. The 27-year-old, who won a title with Toronto in 2019, boasts an overall shooting line of .441/.405/.880.
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