Boston Celtics announced that this year's All-Star game starter, Kemba Walker, will be benched for at least two games nursing a knee injury. The Celtics claim that Walker will be available to play by Feb 16 for the All-Star game. Reserve guard Marcus Smart will take over playmaking duties for now.

Walker and the Celtics are downplaying the knee issue. They are confident that Walker will start as announced for the All-Star game. It will be Walker's fourth All-Star appearance. He also started last year, while playing for the Hornets and the host city, Charlotte.

According to, his teammate, Jayson Tatum, has been selected to play as a reserve in the All-Star game, and will join him in Chicago for the weekend.

This year, Walker is averaging 22 points, 4 rebounds, and 5 assists. He is shooting 44% on the field and 38.8% on the three-point line. Marcus Smart averages the same in rebounds and assists, but only scores 12.3 points a game. His field goal percentage is much lower, at 37.4%. That will put a bit of pressure on his teammates, but Jayson Tatum is doing well on the scoring end, so the team isn't worried.

The Celtics are tied with the Miami Heat at 33-15 for third place in the Eastern Conference. Two games mean a lot at this point, since the second-placed defending champions, Toronto Raptors, are only at 35-14. Fifth-placed Indiana Pacers are at 31-18. Only two games separate the teams. The Celtics are risking their own standing to rest Walker and to fulfill their All-Star obligations.

Walker was also injured early in the season after a severe head-on collision last November. The 29-year-old is being benched for the second time before the halfway point of the regular season. It's only his first season with the Celtics after signing a 4-year $141 million contract with them. Celtics Coach Brad Stevens will have problems keeping him in the roster for that long if he keeps getting hurt, especially now with the young Jayson Tatum taking the lead role in scoring for the Celtics.

Kemba Walker in his younger days Reuters