Weeks away from the start of the 2020-21 NBA regular season, Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens spoke candidly about his team’s approach to training camp, including All-Star point guard Kemba Walker’s left knee and the lingering concerns that come with it.
Even Stevens will tell you, Kemba wasn’t right. By the end of the Eastern Conference Finals, it was evident that Walker’s injured knee had taken a toll on his body as he wasn’t able to attack or defend with the same mobility we saw early on during the regular season.
In the latest episode of the Bob Ryan & Jeff Goodman Podcast, the Celtics head coach admits his starting point guard was hurt and provided an update.
Brad Stevens On Kemba Walker’s Left Knee: ‘It’ll Be Some Time Before He’s Going Full Speed For Us, For Sure’
Talking to Bob Ryan and Jeff Goodman, Stevens says the goal, right now, is to get Walker’s knee back to full strength. And because the shortened offseason isn’t doing Kemba any favors, at the moment; Brad believes the entire process is going to take time.
“The key to this whole thing with him is just strengthening the knee,” Stevens said. “Just continuing to take this opportunity when we’re not playing, when we’re not practicing, to really focus on that – very similar to what we did at the beginning of the bubble. I think there’ll be a transition like that because of the shortened season, the shortened offseason. It’ll be some time before he’s going full speed for us, for sure.”
Is his start to the 2020-21 regular season in jeopardy?
“We haven’t settled on any timelines,” Stevens explained. “This is more of a plan appropriately thing so that he can play and play uninhibited as he moves forward, a lot like the bubble. The bubble was unique because you went basically four months off, so there was a different challenge there in that ramping up was a big threat to everybody. But certainly, if you had a situation like his, where if he goes too fast, too soon, that probably wouldn’t have been good.
“Here it’s just too soon until the season. So, I anticipate, again, we’ll be slow with him as the season starts, as practice starts.”
Boston Celtics’ Backcourt Depth
The Celtics added depth at the point guard position by signing former All-Star guard Jeff Teague to a one-year deal. The news dropped on the same day fans learned Kemba’s backup, Brad Wanamaker, had agreed to a deal with the Golden State Warriors.
Expect Marcus Smart, who filled in for Gordon Hayward in the starting lineup when Hayward missed the bulk of the postseason, to get an uptick in minutes. Still, Walker’s health will be something to keep a close eye on while Stevens may also have a battle for third-string point guard supremency in his near-future between the 2020 G League Rookie of the Year Tremont Waters and last first-round pick Payton Pritchard.
The Celtics do have options in the backcourt, however, Kemba’s All-Star production won’t be easy to replace if he’s not at full strength towards the end of the regular season. The playoffs are most important as Stevens will look to guide his first Celtics team to an NBA Finals appearance in 2021.
For now, it’s best for Boston to tread lightly.