Walker Returns to Practice, Hopeful to Play Tuesday Night
BOSTON – There was a little extra sparkle inside the Celtics’ training facility Monday afternoon, as a smiling, healthy Kemba Walker returned for his first full practice since the All-Star break.
The star point guard missed the last five games due to nagging left knee soreness that has continued to flare up over the course of the season. Though, with the swelling now gone, he hopes to return to action as soon as Tuesday night when the C’s host the Brooklyn Nets at TD Garden.
“I'm looking forward to that,” Walker said of the possibility while flipping a basketball back and forth between his hands after practice.
Aren’t we all?
Even though the Celtics managed to win three of their last five games without Walker, they certainly missed his presence on the offensive end. One could only wonder how things would have fared if he had been in the lineup during their one-possession losses to both the Lakers and the Rockets this past week.
“He just has the ability to make plays with very simple spacing because of his speed, quickness, and skill,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “I think that, you can tell in games like we’ve had over the last week, where it’s hard to score at times, that’s when you miss his burst and that motor.”
Walker’s burst and motor will only be available in a limited capacity for now, as he works his way back on an undetermined minutes restriction. The eager veteran doesn’t love the idea of having to operate under such circumstances, but he’s also willing to do whatever it takes to be in tip-top shape by the time the postseason rolls around.
“It's going to be tough playing limited minutes,” Walker admitted. “But it's all about the long haul and being healthy when it counts, so that's what I'm looking forward to. Just working my way toward getting healthy as we get toward the end of the year.”
Walker isn’t used to being in such a situation. He missed a total of eight games in February, which was two more than he had missed in his previous four seasons combined. The knee soreness has without a doubt caused great frustration, though he also accepts the fact that every athlete’s body breaks down from time to time.
“I’ve played a lot of basketball over the years. It happens,” said Walker. “I've been blessed over the course of my career to be pretty healthy, but it happens, man. We all get injured at some point. Just gotta deal with it.”
How he’s dealing with it is just by being more careful with his workload and making sure that he’s being consistent with his rehab.
“I’m just being conscious,” he said. “Just busy taking care of myself, that’s really it. I can’t really take any days off. I can’t skip any treatments, any lifts, just stay on top of it and I’ll be good.”
Walker may, however, have to skip a game here and there. For example, if he plays Tuesday night, it would be unlikely to see him suit up the following night in Cleveland.
In situations when he has to sit out, Walker is confident that his teammates would be able to fill his role to the best of their abilities, just as they’ve done over the past month.
“They've been playing great,” he acknowledged. “Playing hard, playing together, competing at a very high level. I just need to add to it as much as I can.”
Walker hopes to make such an addition Tuesday night by returning to action against the division-rival Nets.