Kemba Walker smiles while taking out his mouth piece

Pregame Post-Ups: Details on Walker Being Cleared for Practice

Friday, January 8 - Wizards at Celtics

Pregame – Walker's Next Step is Returning to Practice

Kemba Walker is back.

Well, sort of.

The Boston Celtics released a statement at 5:30 p.m. this evening stating that Walker, who has been out all season while strengthening his left knee, has been cleared to return to full practice.

“He looks great. He feels great,” Brad Stevens said of his All-Star point guard. “Probably the best he’s felt since he’s been here.”

Walker, who is in his second season with the Celtics, did not have the opportunity to strengthen his knee to this level before Boston began last season, or before they restarted for their play inside the NBA bubble. Walker was coming off of a summer with Team USA before entering last season’s training camp. He then worked during the truncated restart to strengthen his knee enough to play for the C’s, but he did not strengthen it nearly enough to consistently play at the level which is expected from the four-time All-Star.

That’s not the case this time around.

“Credit to Kemba for saying, ‘I gotta get this thing stronger and I gotta make sure that it is ready to go through a season and then if we’re fortunate, a postseason,’” Stevens said.

The coach revealed even more positive news that Walker has been pain-free in the knee for nearly two months. The team has still taken his progression slowly, with the goal of having him completely healthy, rather than mostly healthy, when he does return.

The next step in Walker’s return-to-play process is returning to practice, which could happen as early as Saturday. Up to this point, his on-court activities have been restricted.

“I think the next progression for him is to get out there on the court with the other guys on the team,” Stevens commented. “He’s been out there with the coaching staff. He’s been out there both in 1-on-1 workouts, but also in doing his reads and 4-on-4 and 5-on-5 stuff, but the next step is now to play some live and practice some live with our guys.”

That next step is important, because this isn’t the same roster Boston had last season. As Celtics fans noticed with Tristan Thompson, who joined the team this offseason and didn’t play in the preseason while barely practicing with the team due to a hamstring injury, it takes time to find a flow with a new lineup and a new overall team.

That being said, it sounds like Walker is right around the corner from returning. If Boston is lucky, No. 8 might be back out on the court for game action within a week or two.

- Marc D'Amico

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