Kemba Walker may not be available for the Celtics on opening night when the season begins roughly a month from now, due to a lingering knee issue.
The latest update coming from head coach Brad Stevens who appeared on this week’s Bob Ryan and Jeff Goodman Podcast on the CLNS Media Network. Stevens expects the start to the regular season to be similar to that which preceded Boston’s bubble run.
“Very similar to what we did at the beginning of the bubble,” Stevens told Ryan and Goodman. “I think there’ll be a transition like that because of the shortened season, the shortened offseason. It’ll be some time before he’s going full speed for us for sure.”
As for whether Walker will be ready for the opener or perhaps even miss the beginning of the season, Stevens said he’s not yet sure.
“We haven’t settled on any timelines, this is more of a plan appropriately thing, so that he can play and play uninhibited as he moves forward, a lot like the bubble,” Stevens said. “The bubble was unique, because you went basically four months off, so there was a different challenge there in that ramping up was a big threat to everybody, but certainly if you had a situation like his where if he goes too fast, too soon that probably wouldn’t have been good. Here it’s just too soon until the season. So I anticipate, again, we’ll be slow with him as the season starts, as practice starts.”
Back in July – despite going 4 months between games – Walker said he was experiencing pain on the side of his knee . Boston limited his practice intensity, scrimmage minutes and held him out of two of the eight bubble regular season games.
Ultimately, Walker managed to play every postseason game and average 19.6 points, 4.1 rebounds and 5.1 assists on 44.1% shooting. He dominated Philadelphia in the first round, scoring 24.3 per game, before falling to 19.7 against Miami in the east finals. Stevens managed his minutes late in the series amid 37 minutes per night for two months. No surgery followed.
Boston Sports Journal’s Dr. Jessica Flynn hinted that Walker is developing arthritis in his left knee following three surgeries and various career steroidal injections. Walker received an injection to address cartilage loss in February. She expected Walker to continue to manage his knee for the rest of his career. Listening to Stevens talk it certainly sounds like the knee is an issue that is going to require maintenance.
“He’s (Walker) working exceptionally hard. The key to this whole thing with him is just strengthening the knee,” Stevens told Ryan and Goodman. “Just continuing to take this opportunity when we’re not playing, when we’re not practicing to really focus on that.