Originally, there was some hope that Celtics point guard Kemba Walker, who had a stem cell procedure in his knee in October, would be ready to play—optimistically—on January 15, which is this Friday’s game against the Magic. Walker was said to need 12 weeks of rehab after the procedure, which took cells from his hip and injected them into his knee, and a return before this weekend was always going to be on the aggressive side.
Obviously will ultimately depend on how Kemba’s full team workouts go but I’ve been hearing that they’re targeting next Friday vs Orlando for his return.
— Adam Himmelsbach (@AdamHimmelsbach) January 8, 2021
Now, team president Danny Ainge concedes, Walker will not be back on the floor on Friday. It was unlikely he would be back that quickly anyway, but when COVID-19 ran through the Celtics and forced the shutdown of the practice facility, Walker’s return date was surely going to be pushed back—he has simply not been able to do any real basketball work with his team.
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Ainge, in fact, is not sure about when Walker might be back.
“I am not sure who said (January 15) but I think that was a little bit early,” Ainge said on the Toucher and Rich show on 98.5 The Sports Hub on Thursday morning. “The challenge with Kemba is, Kemba is working but he really has not played basketball and with all these tests that have come back and with our team and our inability to practice and do nothing but 1-on-0 workouts, it’s hard to get Kemba the reps that he needs and the real basketball that he needs to get back on the court to play a game. So I’m not sure is the answer.”
Celtics Should Have Enough Healthy Bodies to Play vs. Magic
There is this, though, from the good-news file: The Celtics will have enough healthy bodies on Friday to play the game. Ainge said that center Tristan Thompson and forward Grant Williams will be back at practice and that they will be active for the game.
Still out, however, will be the star tandem of Jayson Tatum (who tested positive for COVID-19) and Jaylen Brown. Semi Ojeleye, Robert Williams and Javonte Green are also out.
Brown was originally held out because of contact tracing. He could return on Saturday at the earliest, unless he has had a positive test since then.
Tatum will not be back until next weekend, at the earliest.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) January 9, 2021
Ainge said he could not comment on players’ COVID-19 status specifically, but sounded positive that the Celtics will be able to build their team in the coming days.
“I think that our players are all doing well,” Ainge said. “We have some that are in contact tracing also, so all our players are doing well. It looks like we are going to be able to play a game tomorrow. But we still have 17 more tests to do between now and then. We’ll have to find out what happens. Each of these tests, you’re just on pins and needles.”
Ainge Would Rather Celtics Play Now Than Postpone
The Celtics have missed three straight games which could be seen as a blessing in disguise—they are three games the team will get to play later, presumably with a healthy Walker on hand. Though the Celtics played well without Walker, he is an All-Star who averaged 20.4 points and 4.8 assists last year.
Ainge does not see it that way, though. He knows, eventually, the Celtics will have to play a pile of games to make up for those they missed.
Breaking: The Heat-Celtics game tonight has been postponed.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 10, 2021
“I’d rather play the games even without Kemba because we don’t want to stack the games up later in the season,” Ainge said. “But Kemba has progressed well, he has worked extremely hard. I’m excited about his return and I know he is excited to get back on the court.”