2019-20 Season Refresh: Kemba Walker
BOSTON – It’s been just over a year since Kemba Walker was acquired by the Boston Celtics, and what a year it has been.
It began with the vibrant, yet humble attitude that he brought into the locker room on Day 1 of training camp, which spread among his teammates like wildfire. His eagerness to win and encouraging leadership style helped to create early positivity, particularly among his younger peers, which was carried by all into the 2019-20 Season.
From there, the quiet leader let his play do all the talking.
Picking up where he left off in Charlotte, Walker established himself as an offensive force for Boston almost right away. Despite notching only 12 points in his first game, he soon found his flow and wound up reaching the 100-point mark faster than any other player in franchise history.
Walker also quickly proved to be the most voluminous 3-point shooter to ever put on a Celtics uniform. He made a whopping 44 3-pointers during his first 10 games, which put him at an early pace to demolish Isaiah Thomas’ single-season record of 245 made 3s.
Walker appeared in 50 games prior to the season’s suspension in mid-March and averaged 21.2 points, a team-leading 4.9 assists per game and 4.1 rebounds per game. During that span, he knocked down 165 3-pointers, which put him at an 82-game pace of 270.
Due to the breakout seasons of both Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, Walker’s consistent offensive production sometimes flew under the radar. However, the mid-season All-Star voting showed just how much respect he had earned, as he wound attaining the most votes of any guard in the Eastern Conference from both his NBA peers and the media, which led to his fourth consecutive All-Star selection and second straight as a starter.
The one hindrance that Walker experienced for the first time in his nine-year career was a lack of consistent health. The durable ironman had only missed six games in his previous four seasons combined. But by mid-January, the 29-year-old had begun to experience soreness in his left knee, which caused him to miss 10 games over the course of two months leading up to the NBA’s suspension.
The nagging injury also threw him out of rhythm at times. From February-on, he shot just 31.7 percent from the field, after shooting 43.9 percent from the start of the season through January.
However, one positive that came out of the four-month hiatus was that Walker had plenty of time to rest and recover. Upon returning to the team’s practice facility in early July, he proclaimed that his knee felt strong and believed that he would be ready to go at full force by the end of the month when the regular season resumes in Orlando.
“I really, really, really needed that break,” Walker said July 1. “It definitely helped me get back to myself and start to feel comfortable on my knee.”
The Celtics will take a cautious approach with Walker in the weeks leading up to the resumption of the season. He’ll likely have a few more rest days than his teammates as he continues to strengthen his knee, but he expects to be at full force at least by the time the postseason begins in mid-August.
Having that healthy, vibrant version of Walker will be essential for Boston as it continues its pursuit of Banner 18 in Orlando.