The Boston Celtics were deliberately cautious with star point guard Kemba Walker in their return to action in the NBA restart.
Boston kept Walker, who has been dealing with a nagging left knee injury, on a minutes restriction — Walker never played more than 32 minutes in the six seeding games he appeared in — but now with the Celtics first round playoff series with the Philadelphia 76ers beginning Monday (6:30 p.m. ET), Walker will no longer have to deal with having his playing time curtailed.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens didn’t outrightly say it, but all indications are Walker won’t be held on a minutes restriction once the postseason begins as Walker is at or near full strength when Boston needs him the most.
“The knee’s fine,” Stevens said. “He’s ready to roll. ... He should be in good shape to play.”
Brad Stevens on Kemba heading into playoffs: "The knee's fine. He's ready to roll."— Brian Robb (@BrianTRobb) August 15, 2020
Walker, who at times seemed frustrated over adhering to a minutes restriction in the NBA bubble, appeared thrilled to have the restriction lifted by the Celtics coaching staff and be able to play without any hinderance.
He's wearing a mask, but you can tell Kemba Walker is smiling when he was asked how happy he is that his minutes restrictions was lifted and how sick he is of answering questions about his knee.— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) August 15, 2020
And Walker’s looking forward to carrying a much heavier workload in just his third playoff series in his nine-year career.
“I’m ready to go out there and play big minutes and do what I can to help my team win big games,” said Walker, who has never made in out of the first round of the postseason and appeared in just 11 playoff games during his tenure with the Charlotte Hornets.
The All-Star guard looked like his usual self during limited action in the seeding games by averaging 14.2 points on 49.1 percent shooting from the floor to go along with 3.5 assists per game.
The height and length of the 76ers, who possess several top-notch defenders, certainly poses issues for the undersized Walker, but he’s ready to meet the challenge head-on.
“I can’t escape Josh (Richardson), man,” Walker said. “Every time I go to the playoffs, I’m going against him. He’s a great defender. Great size and great length.”