Walker, who’s spent the off-season and the entire regular season recovering from his left knee injury that plagued his performance in last season’s playoffs, underwent a stem cell injection in his knee before the start of the season.
Now, his progression, thus far, has brought him to his debut in a Sunday matinee matchup against the Knicks.
Kemba Walker Returns To Celtics Lineup On 20-Minute Restriction Vs. Knicks
Head coach Brad Stevens says Walker, as expected, will be on a minutes restriction against New York
“We’re looking at 20, 20-ish (minutes), right around there,” Stevens said. “We’re not asking for him to be anything but Kemba Walker. Just go out and, obviously, he’s excited to play. He’s ready to play. They’ve put in a lot of work to get to this point and we’re looking forward to having him out there.”
Kemba Walker Take Hard Screen, Exits The Game In The Third Quarter
Walker wasn’t shy when things tipped off in his season debut at TD Garden. The Celtics All-Star started things off by relentlessly attacking the rim and searching for his bigs in Grant Williams and Tristan Thompson, in the paint.
In the game’s opening 4:46, he headed towards the bench with a pair of assists, one rebound, and a block. In the second frame, Kemba kicked things off with five consecutive points, including a 3-pointer in the opening minutes.
Walker finished the first half with 8 points on 3-of-7 attempts from the floor, including 1-of-3 from behind the 3-point arc along with 3 assists, 2 rebounds, and one steal in 11:27. Kemba did, however, commit four turnovers.
Then came the end of the third quarter. Frustratingly enough, it looked like rookie Payton Pritchard was ready to check in just before Walker was picked off by Knicks center Nerlens Noel with a hard screen that sent Kemba to the ground.
Walker, who spent over a minute on the ground, regained his footing and headed towards the locker. Kemba eventually rejoined his teammates on the Celtics’ bench and didn’t return to the game due to his 20-minute restriction, which clocked out at 19:37 while the Knicks cruised to an easy win.
New York crushed the Celtics in a 105-75 blowout.
Brad Stevens On Celtics Being No. 1 In the East: ‘It’s Meaningless 11 Games In’
Heading into Sunday’s matchup against the Knicks, the Celtics (8-3) sit atop of the Eastern Conference. As Stevens has learned throughout his years (Sunday afternoon’s lesson was a good one) as an NBA head coach, things can change, whether it’s for the good or for the bad, rather quickly, in this league.
“(It’s) meaningless 11 games in, where you are in the conference. For me, that can flip in one week,” Stevens said. “We can be out of the top-10 pretty easily, so we’re just trying to get better. The reality is that we haven’t been any version of a top team from a statistical standpoint but we’re 4-2 in close games. So, you know, the difference between cutting into last night 5-5 or 7-3 is flipping a couple of close games.
“So, we have to be better. We have to get a lot better in a lot of ways. But, where you stand right now, 11 games in, is meaningless.”