Boston Celtics

Jan 8, 2020; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics guard Kemba Walker (8) controls the ball during the first half against the San Antonio Spurs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

By Ty Anderson,

The Boston Celtics are just a few weeks away from opening their doors in preparation for a 70-game 2020-21 season.

Kemba Walker, meanwhile, is less than two months removed from finishing a 2019-20 season derailed by knee woes.

It’s simply not the most encouraging timeline. Especially when you look at the timeline of this season, as a late December start could come with an uptick in three-in-fours and back-to-backs. But it’s one Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge and the team is confident they’ll manage all the same.

“We have to put Kemba’s health at the front as the No. 1 priority going in [to next season],” Ainge admitted Wednesday. “We know how good of a player Kemba is, and how good he can be.”

That likely means those dreaded ‘maintenance days’ — either in camp or in the season — are unavoidable. Of course, Ainge didn’t want to speculate on that aspect of it just yet, and instead chose to focus on the eventual build back to 100 percent.

“Whatever it is, we’ll be ready for that,” Ainge said. “I have all the confidence in the world that Kemba will be back and healthy and fresh and ready. What he’s doing right now is very important during this offseason.”

Running point as Boston’s No. 1 for 56 games last year, Walker averaged 20.4 points per game and shot 42.5 percent (and his 38.1 percent from deep was the third-best single-season mark of his career), but was in-and-out of action due to that lingering, nagging knee issue. Even with a four-month break, those woes unfortunately followed Walker into the Orlando summer bubble.

And though he often provided encouraging updates on the issue, and at times looked like the ‘Cardiac Kemba’ killer the Celtics wanted in their 17-game postseason run, it was clear that the Celtics and Walker were simply doing their best to make the best of the situation on a day-to-day basis.

The Celtics know they can’t afford a repeat of that if they’re going to truly compete for a title in 2021.

Given the Celtics’ investment in Walker — signing the 30-year-old to a four-year, max contract in the wake of Kyrie Irving’s departure to the Brooklyn Nets — it’s not hard to see why.

“We have to make sure we have three more years with Kemba, at least,” Ainge admitted. “And we’re excited about those three years.

“He’s a terrific player.”

Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.

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