BOSTON (CBS) — Even if the Celtics find themselves in a furious battle for seeding in the Eastern Conference at the end of the season, the coaching staff will continue to adhere to the strict “Kemba Rules” set in place for the point guard’s health.
That means that even if Boston needs a win to secure a higher seed when they host the New York Knicks on the final day of the regular season — and even if a win would get them a “Get Out Of The Play-In Tournament Free” card — Walker will still sit.READ MORE: Verdugo, Devers Power Red Sox Past Braves In 10-8 Win
That’s because it will be the second leg of a Boston back-to-back, and Brad Stevens is under strict orders not to play Walker in such scenarios. Boston has continually placed health over seeding this season, and that won’t stop with the playoffs just around the corner.
“We have not even broached that topic,” Stevens told 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Zolak & Bertrand on Wednesday when asked if Walker would play in such a scenario where a higher seed was on the line. “The reason being because this whole season, this circumstance was set out as a way to best make him feel great at the end of the year. His body hasn’t been through that yet. It’s been such a fine balance of, ‘He has to feel great.’READ MORE: Cam Neely Looks Back On Bruins' 2015 Draft: 'Hindsight Is Everything'
“If we’re the seventh-seed, the eight-seed, the sixth-seed or the fifth-seed and Kemba doesn’t feel great, it’s going to make our road that much more difficult,” continued Stevens. “Him feeling great has been a priority because we obviously value him, but it’s also our best chance of peaking when the postseason begins.”
The Celtics have two back-to-backs in their final seven games of the season, so those are two games that Walker will not play. Boston is 34-31 on the season and has clinched at least a spot in the NBA’s play-in tournament, currently sitting in as the seven-seed in the East. The Celtics would love to get out of that play-in round, and have a great opportunity to do so with a pair of head-to-head matchups with the Miami Heat, the East’s current six-seed by half-a-game.
Walker got a late start to the season because of lingering knee issues, and the Celtics have had him in bubble wrap for much of the year. He’s averaged 18.2 points and 5.0 assists over 39 games, hitting 40.9 percent of his shots from the floor.MORE NEWS: Matt Judon Says He'll Race Anyone On Patriots
The 30-year-old is set to return to the Celtics lineup Tuesday night in Orlando after missing Boston’s previous four games with an oblique injury.