Recovering from a left knee injury suffered earlier in the season, Walker entered the league’s restart with timely rest and rehabilitation. He appeared in six of the Celtics’ eight-seeding games and was trending upward.
Showing little-to-no rust, Walker torched the Philadelphia 76ers in Boston’s opening-round series. He averaged 24.3 points while shooting 49.3% from the floor. Walker’s mobility was a slight concern but in the midst of a 4-0 sweep, it wasn’t deemed problematic until the Toronto Raptors held him to five points on 2-of-11 attempts in Game 2 of the conference semifinals and emphasized a defense centered on disrupting Walker.
Kemba finished the best-of-7 series averaging 17 points, including a 27.3% clip from behind the arc – a significant drop from his outside touch throughout the regular season (38%).
Celtics GM Danny Ainge: ‘He Was Definitely Not Himself’
However, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said he knew Walker wouldn’t be the same well before his team made its way towards Orlando.
“I could see even when he was here before the bubble started, which is why he shut down a little bit and doing strong training and trying to prepare himself for the playoff run,” Ainge said Thursday morning on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich show. “But he was definitely not himself. In fairness to Kemba, he doesn’t want to say that to you; the media. He doesn’t want to say that to me. I haven’t heard one excuse from him but watching the games, even the games we won, even the games where he played well, I could tell he wasn’t the same physically as he was in October, November, December.”
Off-Season Plans For Kemba Walker
Still, Walker’s Celtics postseason debut was a strong showing, especially when you consider the health issues he had to deal with, special coverages by the Raptors and the Miami Heat in the final rounds, and still managed to average 19.6 points, 5.1 assists. Ainge was asked if health will continue to be a concern with Walker moving forward as the team gears up for its off-season.
“Probably over the next week-to-two weeks we will have a full plan for Kemba in the offseason, regardless of what the medical tests come back and everything else,” Ainge said. “There’s no surgery needed or anything else that I’m aware of at this time.”
Walker, who entered the postseason for only the third time throughout his nine-year career, had never seen playoff basketball beyond the postseason’s opening round. It’s an experience Ainge knows Walker didn’t take for granted.
“He’s a player who understood how special it is to be here, and to never have those opportunities he’s had in his career,” Ainge said. “But he has a smile on his face, he brings joy to the game and the team and the entire organization on a daily basis. He’s just great to be around, and that’s why I feel so bad. It’s his first time on this big stage and this huge of a stage and he gave everything that he had. He played well, but we know that he wasn’t himself.
“But he’s a terrific leader, and a terrific teammate, and an amazing person.”