Kemba Walker has yet to play or even practice this season after having a stem cell injection in his troublesome left knee in October, but the Celtics hope to have him back in their lineup soon. Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

BOSTON — The Boston Celtics may soon have one of their top players back on the court.

All-Star point guard Kemba Walker has been cleared to begin practicing, the team announced Friday.

Walker hasn’t played this season after receiving a stem cell injection in his left knee prior to the start of training camp last month.

He’s been on a 12-week strengthening program since the early October procedure. Walker injured his knee prior to the resumption of last season in the Florida bubble, but returned to play during the playoffs.

Coach Brad Stevens said Walker has been pain-free while going through individual workouts with the coaching staff. Stevens said the next step is for him to go through some live practices with teammates.

“I don’t think he’s too far. He looks great. He feels great,” Stevens said. “Probably the best he’s felt since he’s been here. … Hopefully he’ll be back soon, but we’re not gonna rush that.”

Walker was a big part of Boston’s run to the Eastern Conference finals in the bubble, averaging 19.6 points and 5.1 assists during the postseason. The Celtics lost the series in six games to Miami.

76ERS: The team was quarantining in New York on Friday because of a positive COVID-19 test for guard Seth Curry.

A person familiar with the situation says the Sixers stayed overnight after the team learned of Curry’s positive result during Thursday’s loss against the Nets. The person spoke to The Associated Press Friday on condition of anonymity because the team has not made Curry’s condition public. The person said as of Friday morning, Curry was the only positive test on the Sixers.

Curry sat out Thursday’s game because of a sore left ankle and appeared to wear a mask as he sat on the bench for part of the first half.

The Sixers are scheduled to play Denver in Philadelphia on Saturday.

The 76ers announced Thursday night that they would not hold practice Friday. Typically, players must remain quarantined for a period of seven days if they have had direct contact with someone who tested positive.

FRIDAY’S GAMES

HORNETS 118, PELICANS 110: Gordon Hayward scored 26 points and Charlotte methodically came back from an 18-point, second-quarter deficit to win at New Orleans.

Miles Bridges scored 20 points and Devonte Graham had 17 for the Hornets, who didn’t take their first lead until the fourth quarter, when they outscored New Orleans 36-23.

Zion Williamson scored 26 points and Josh Hart had 19 for the Pelicans, who’ve lost three straight, all at home.

The game marked the first time brothers Lonzo and LaMelo Ball – both top-three draft choices within the past four years – played against one another. LaMelo Ball, picked third overall in 2020, had the better night, nearly notching a triple-double with 12 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists.

Lonzo Ball, the second overall pick by the Los Angeles Lakers in 2017, missed 6 of 7 3-point shots and finished with five points.

PISTONS 110, SUNS 105: Jerami Grant had 31 points, 10 rebounds and a crucial assist near the end of regulation, and Detroit won at home in overtime after rallying from a 23-point deficit.

Devin Booker scored 23 points for Phoenix, including a 3-pointer with 40.7 seconds left in overtime that brought the Suns within three. Grant answered with a 3-pointer in front of the Detroit bench.

Phoenix entered the game with the best record in the Western Conference, while Detroit came in with the worst mark in the NBA.

THUNDER 101, KNICKS 89: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 25 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, Hamidou Diallo scored a season-high 23 points, and Oklahoma City overcame an ugly start in New York.

Al Horford added 15 points and was practically the only offense early for the Thunder, who improved to 4-1 on the road.

RJ Barrett scored 19 points for the Knicks, who had their three-game winning streak snapped. Julius Randle, scoreless in the first half, finished with 18 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists.

ROCKETS 132, MAGIC 90: Christian Wood scored 22 points and tied a career high with 15 rebounds to lead Houston to a win at home.

JAZZ 131, BUCKS 118: Donovan Mitchell scored 32 points and Utah made a franchise-record 25 3-pointers to hand Milwaukee its first home loss.

GRIZZLIES 115, NETS 110: Dillon Brooks scored 24 points and Memphis held on for a win over visiting Brooklyn.

The Nets again played without Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, while Memphis is still missing reigning Rookie of the Year Ja Morant and forward Jaren Jackson Jr. Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas left midway through the game because of health and safety protocols.

 


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