6:36 PM ET
BOSTON — Celtics playmaker Kemba Walker has been allowed to practice, the team announced Friday, and coach Brad Stevens said Walker’s left knee hasn’t hurt for more than a month.
Walker’s left knee has been a constant problem for Boston. He will return for a calendar year in January 2020. In the weeks leading up to last year’s All-Star Game, he struggled with a knee injury. Then, after playing a lot of minutes in the middle of the season in Chicago, he fought his way to a championship suspension in March for COVID-19.
When the teams resumed practice in late June, Walker said he felt even more discomfort in his knee, which led the Celtics to subject him to a strict minute limit during the team’s NBA bubble games at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.
After a postseason of ups and downs in which Walker did well in the first round against the Philadelphia 76ers before facing a tougher battle with the Toronto Raptors and then the Miami Heat, he and the team agreed to a 12-week strengthening program in early October to try to improve the long-term health of his left knee and also give him a knee injection.
Last month, the team announced that Walker’s status would be updated the first week of January. Now that he is, the question is when Walker will be ready for his first season.
Stevens said he credits Walker for taking the time to get his knee repaired instead of enjoying it and playing at a level below his ability. Walker has a reputation for being ready to play despite injuries. In his first eight years in the league with the Charlotte Hornets, he rarely lost a game.
Congratulations to Kemba: I need to strengthen this thing and I need to make sure it’s ready for the season and then hopefully for the postseason, Stevens said. But he and [strength coach Jace Delaney] have done a good job developing a plan of attack with Phil Coles, and we hope he’ll be back soon.
But we take our time. We’ll see how practice goes and everything else.
Boston, meanwhile, will face a significant drop in frontcourt rotation after the Robert Williams III center tested positive for COWID-19 and teammates Grant Williams and Tristan Thompson were excluded from contact tracking under league health and safety protocols.
Boston is down to its last two open headlines: Daniel Theis, the starter, and Taco Fall, who has a bilateral contract.
Well, we’re obviously going to limit ourselves to the number of guys who can play on that field. According to Stevens, we will have two great players in the next couple of games. That’s the way it is. I think what bothers me the most is that sometimes we play awfully small games. And that’s a challenge, isn’t it? We need to make sure that we blend in and have as many wings on the ground as possible, at least two of our wings on the ground if possible.
In Boston, however, veteran Jeff Teague is back after missing the last two games due to a sprained ankle, as is guard Javonte Green, who missed the four-game trip to Boston because he was placed under these health and safety protocols.
Stevens said that while the team’s depth is clearly taking a hit right now because of the protocols, he’s confident in what the league is doing and how it’s handling the virus.
According to Stevens, the NBA has an incredibly detailed plan in case something goes wrong. You basically survived the last few days, the time we spent together. And I know they do that to every team. It’s a long and difficult task for our people who are responsible for all of our protocols and respect them all, and for all the people in the league. These people invest a lot of time and effort, and they are the experts. I listen to them and they tell me what we can and cannot do.
Scott Brooks, echoing Stevens’ belief that the league should do things right, added that Russell Westbrook, who dislocated a finger on his right hand at the end of Washington’s loss to Philadelphia on Wednesday, would play well against the Celtics.