Kemba, Stevens Discuss Plan for Friday Night's Minutes
BOSTON – Kemba Walker’s health continues to trend upward as the Boston Celtics prepare to tip off the restart of their season Friday night against Milwaukee.
Walker fully participated in Wednesday’s practice without any issues with his left knee, and following Thursday’s practice, the news got even better after Brad Stevens revealed Walker could play up to 20 minutes Friday night.
“(He’s) maybe even a little ahead of schedule,” Stevens said of Walker, “considering that he’s playing that many minutes in Game 1, with where we started earlier, a couple of weeks ago.”
At that time, Walker was barely practicing with the team. The majority of his energy was being dedicated to rehabbing and strengthening his knee. That plan of attack has helped him to reach the healthy state he has reached today.
“The most important thing is his knee – his strength – you have to be able to build up appropriately,” Stevens explained. “He’s done that in the last couple of weeks in practice.”
Stevens joked that Walker won’t be very happy with him when he takes Walker out of the game after 18-20 minutes of action. But the fact that Walker is playing at all is a sign that the All-Star point guard is on the right path.
“I know it’s about me getting better for the Playoffs and being available to my teammates. I’ll be fine,” Walker said Thursday. “I’m working every single day to get myself prepared to play big minutes in the future. I’ll be fine.”
Ironically, Walker indicated that his knee is actually benefitting from his stay inside the NBA’s bubble, for multiple reasons.
“It’s warm here. It’s not freezing like in Boston, I’ll tell you that,” he said with a hint of sarcasm. “That helps. The not traveling helps, too. Those things are pluses right now.”
Boston certainly considers it a plus that it will have its speedy point guard available for more than half of his typical minutes against Milwaukee. Walker is averaging 31.8 minutes per game this season, so if he pushes upward of 20 minutes, that’s a solid chunk of action.
As for the plan of how Walker’s minutes will be used Friday night, Stevens indicated that there will be no limitation to the length of the point guard’s stretches on the court. The plan is to leave Walker in the game for normal stretches of play, rather than limit him to short bursts of playing time.
“I just think when you try to play somebody in three-minute increments, they have no flow or rhythm to their game,” Stevens said. “So at least tomorrow, we’ll just play him probably in his (normal) minutes. It may even be by the end of the first half.”
That decision will prevent Walker from being available for crunch-time against the Bucks. While that’s a tough pill to swallow for the uber-competitive guard, it won’t take away from his excitement to get back onto the court against the East’s No. 1 seed.
“We’re looking forward to the matchup. We’re looking forward to the competitiveness,” he said. “Because we know for a fact they’re going to bring it, as they do each and every night, each and every game. It’s going to be fun.”
The fact that Walker is available to take part in this battle of Eastern Conference contenders takes the fun to a whole other level.