BOSTON (CBS) — Kemba Walker didn’t want to make any excuses after the Celtics fell in the Eastern Conference Finals, but the point guard was clearly not himself throughout Boston’s playoff run. Now that the season is over, the Celtics are going to do everything they can to get Kemba back to being Kemba.
Walker was slowed during the regular season by a knee injury, which still hampered the 30-year-old when the NBA resumed action in the Orlando bubble. It led to a minutes restriction in Boston’s seeding games and a slew of missed practices, though those limitations were lifted when the postseason arrived. Walker was up and down throughout Boston’s playoff run, with some really tough games against the Raptors in the East Semifinals, but still averaged 19.6 points off 40 percent shooting for the postseason.
Now the focus shifts to getting Walker back to full speed by the time next season rolls around — whenever that may be. Celtics president of basketball ops. Danny Ainge spoke with reporters via Zoom on Thursday morning, and said the team is still coming up with an offseason plan for Walker. At the moment, Ainge doesn’t believe Walker will need surgery on his knee, but said that could change.
“Over the next week to two weeks we’ll have a full plan for Kemba in the offseason, regardless of what tests come back,” he said. “No surgery needed that I’m aware of at this time. But I wasn’t there, I was watching from here. I could see even before the bubble started, which is why he was shut down a bit and did some strength training for the playoff run – he was definitely not himself. In fairness to Kemba, he doesn’t want to say that; doesn’t say that to coaches, to the media, doesn’t say that to me. But watching the games, even games we won and games he played well, I could tell he wasn’t the same physically. So we’re going to try to get that Kemba back.
“Even when he was not at his best, he still averaged 20 points in the playoffs. He was still a very good player, but not who he was,” added Ainge. “There is nothing more frustrating for an athlete than not being able to be yourself. I’ve been there before and it’s not fun. It’s stressful. And I know Kemba went through that.”
This was the first deep playoff run of Walker’s career, and Ainge praised the point guard’s leadership throughout his first season in Boston on Thursday.
“He didn’t make any excuses and came to play. He realized the moment that he was in, he’s a player who understood how special it is to be here and have the opportunities he’s never had in his career,” said Ainge. “He always has a smile on his face and brings a joy to the game and to the team on a daily basis. He’s just great to be around. I feel bad that it was his first time on this stage and gave everything he had. He played well but we know that he wasn’t himself.”