Celtics star Kemba Walker made his season debut against the New York Knicks on Sunday afternoon in Boston.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Walker, who has been out on a strengthening program for his ailing left knee since the end of last season, would play for about 20 minutes.
“Right there,” said Stevens before the game. “We’re not asking him to be anything other than Kemba Walker.
“Obviously he’s excited to play. He’s ready to play. You’ve put a lot of work into getting to this point and we’re looking forward to having him out there.”
Walker had knee problems last year. He struggled with it before the final season was halted in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, and then was restricted by it when Boston returned that summer to play in the NBA bubble at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida .
After Boston lost to Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference final, Walker received an injection in his knee. In early October, he began a 12 week strengthening program that ended earlier this month.
Since then, Walker has slowly increased his workload – a process stalled due to Boston’s recent problems with COVID-19, as Robert Williams III and Jayson Tatum tested positive and several other players followed up on contact. As a result, Boston postponed three games last week before returning to the field on Friday to beat Orlando Magic.
“Very little,” said Stevens when asked how much Walker had practiced with his teammates. “But it has a lot to do with the fact that he had a lot to do with coaches before our mini-shutdown last week. [Then he] increased his work every day during this time. … Probably not a typical practice, but you feel really good where he is and he feels really good where he is. “
The Celtics compete on Sunday and chair the Eastern Conference at 8 am-3am. But Stevens wasn’t interested in discussing his team’s early success.
“Yes, that is meaningless, 11 games in which you participate in the conference,” said Stevens. “I mean, this can tip over in a week. You can get out of the top 10 pretty easily. We’re just trying to get better.
“The reality is that statistically we weren’t a version of a top team. But we’re 4-2 in tight games so the difference between 5-5 and 7-3 last Friday night is just a flip of a couple of tight games We have to be better. We have to get a lot better in many ways. But you know where you are now, 11 games in, doesn’t mean anything. “