BOSTON (CBS) — We knew that Kemba Walker would play in Boston’s bubble opener on Friday night, but now we know how much the Celtics point guard will play against the Bucks. Though still on a minutes restriction, Walker will see his share of action against the Eastern Conference’s top team.
Walker will play between 14 and 20 minutes on Friday, which Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said was “set in stone” during his chat with reporters on Thursday. Stevens believes Walker will play closer to the 20 minute limit, as the team tries to keep him fresh for the playoffs while also knocking off any lingering rust from a four-month break.
It’s a delicate tight rope that the Celtics will be walking for the next two weeks, but one that Stevens believes will pay off in the end.
“It will ramp up towards that, towards full minutes,” Stevens said Thursday. “Just like the last couple of weeks we’ve had a plan and we’ve ramped it up appropriately. As long as he hits all his marks, as long as he continues to gain strength, then we’ll keep ramping up his minutes, and by the end of the seeding games he’ll be playing near that full-game minutes for sure.”
That’s great news, as Walker has been hampered by left knee soreness since January. It greatly affected his game before the NBA put the season on hold in March, and there have been concerns that Walker won’t be himself when the Celtics return to action.
Stevens sounded optimistic that that won’t be the case on Thursday, but that means Walker will be on the restriction until further notice. Walker, a workhorse who averaged 32 minutes of action during his first season with the Celtics, isn’t a fan of that restriction, but he understands it is for the best.
“It’s frustrating. This is the first time in my career I’ve ever had to go through this, so it’s tough,” he explained Thursday. “But I’ll get there. I know what it’s about. I’m working every single day to get myself prepared to play big minutes in the future.”
Walker said that managing the knee soreness is much easier in Orlando because of the warm weather and the lack of travel. Flying caused swelling in the knee during the season, and with all games set to be played in one location, it has been a major relief for Walker.
In 50 games this season, Walker averaged 21.2 points off 42 percent shooting to go with 4.9 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game.