In the wake of his departure from the Boston Celtics, Kemba Walker’s former Beantown cohorts had a lot of good things to say about the four-time All-Star. For his part, Jayson Tatum referred to Walker as “my boy 4L [for life]” on social media. Brad Stevens, meanwhile, praised the point guard’s professionalism.
“I want to thank him for his tremendous impact, and the positive contribution he’s made to both the Celtics and the city of Boston,” he added in a post-trade press release.
Nevertheless, there were growing rumblings in the days leading up to the trade that all was not well between Kemba and the Garden Crew.
According to The Athletic’s Jared Weiss, Walker and Stevens had a “tension-filled relationship” and eventually began to “butt heads.” Meanwhile, Walker struggled at times to adapt to his role as Boston’s third wheel behind Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. And the occasional boos he received from the TD Garden crown supposedly “pissed him off” as well.
On Sunday, another issue between Walker and the Celtics was also thrown into the spotlight.
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Simmons: Kemba Didn’t Do Team-Directed Rehab Work
Before his departure, Walker’s left knee issues had been a burden on the Celtics for more than a year, dating back to before the pandemic shut down the league last season. However, the team apparently did what it could to get him right in time for bubble play last summer.
On a recent episode of his podcast, though, hoops pundit and Massachusetts native Bill Simmons indicated that Walker didn’t hold up his end of the rehab bargain.
“They gave him all these exercises to try to keep working — and I didn’t see this reported anywhere, but I think I talked about it last year,” Simmons said. “They gave him all these exercises and stuff to work on his knee, so that — because the trainers couldn’t be in the same room with anybody — so it was like, ‘Hey, you’ve gotta work on this and do all this stuff.’ And from what I heard, he didn’t do it.”
Consequently, Walker reportedly showed no signs of improvement upon his return to the Celtics.
“When he came back to the bubble and was about to play (again), his knee was in the exact same shape it was before the pandemic and then they basically had to do two months to try to get him in condition to play these playoff games.”
Walker’s Knee Continued to Be a Problem
Although Walker played relatively well in the bubble playoffs, averaging 19.6 points, 5.1 assists and 4.1 rebounds per contest, his three-point shot was off and he wore down as the team’s postseason run extended. And the problems didn’t end there.
Walker was a frequent scratch from the Cs lineup in 2020-21, regularly sitting out back-to-backs. He also missed multiple clusters of games down the stretch as the team was desperately seeking to avoid a play-in scenario, not to mention Boston’s final two playoff games.
He continued to put up numbers when he did play, logging a 19-5-4 line with an effective field goal percentage of 51.4. That said, his impact clearly wasn’t the same as it had been previously.
Walker’s offensive, defensive and net ratings were all down in ’20-21 compared to the previous season.
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