By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Boston Celtics were playing some good basketball just ahead of the NBA’s COVID-19 hiatus, but they had one major concern heading into the final stretch of the regular season: Kemba Walker’s balky knee.
The knee kept Walker out of six games following the All-Star break. Walker had to have the knee drained, and when he did return, he lacked his usual explosiveness on the court. The Celtics started to show off their juggling skills, trying to walk a tight rope between giving Walker’s knee the rest it needed to heal and making sure their All-Star point guard was ready for the postseason.
But just a few nights after Walker lumbered through 30 minutes of action against the Indiana Pacers and shot just 3-for-12 — with Boston clinching their spot in the playoffs by hanging on for a victory — he got a much-needed break. A long one at that.
That’s when the NBA went on its COVID-19 hiatus, halting the season for what will be a four-month layoff. No one wanted to see the season get put on pause, but for Walker, it kind of worked out well. Chatting with Boston reporters on Wednesday, Walker said he’s feeling great as the team is about to ramp up practice ahead of the NBA’s bubble season in Orlando. That long break was just what the doctor ordered for his knee, and he’s ready to go when the NBA tips off again.
“It was super important for me. I really needed that break,” Walker said Wednesday. “It definitely helped me get back to myself and feel comfortable on my knee. It was an unfortunate time, but it was in my best interest for sure.”
Action is sure to increase over the coming days and weeks, with the Celtics heading to Orlando for training camp on July 8. After three weeks, the team will knock off some rust with eight seeding games before the playoffs begin. Walker is confident that he and his knee will be able to handle the workload that lies ahead.
“I’m comfortable with the way the schedule is and I’m going to continue to take care of myself. Just take it day by day,” he said.
While Walker and his teammates haven’t been able to play much ball over the last three months, he said they’ve been constantly talking and keeping their relationships strong. He said that relationship has been great since Day 1 of the season — Walker’s first in Boston — and their chemistry won’t be affected by the long layoff.
He’s also feeling a lot more comfortable, viewing this restart as a “new season.”
“I’m a lot more comfortable. especially realizing the change and everything that went down during the season, the ups and downs,” he said. “I’m more comfortable with my teammates, we’ve been talking a lot over quarantine and I got to watch a lot of games. I would say I’m more comfortable and ready to go, ready to expand my game to higher levels so we can be a better team.
“Especially the way I ended the season, I wasn’t happy with the way I was playing. I’m excited,” he added.
Walker, who suffered from asthma as a kid, said he has no hesitation when it comes to playing in the NBA’s bubble down in Orlando. The asthma isn’t around anymore, and he’s been following all the health and safety protocols since the beginning of the pandemic. As a single guy, he also has no reservations about living in one spot for the foreseeable future — focusing squarely on basketball.
“I think everyone’s situation is different. Some guys have families, kids, wives. For me, I’m a single man with no kids — I’m going to be fine,” he said. “All I do is stay in the house anyways, so there’s nothing wrong with me just staying in my room.
“I’m actually looking forward to it because I’m looking forward to playing basketball,” said Walker, who has played in just 11 playoff games over his nine-year NBA career.