By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Kemba Walker can’t tell you what doctors did to his knee.
The mere request Wednesday left him holding back some laughter and staring towards the ceiling in bewilderment.
“I can’t,” Walker admitted with a grin. “I can’t lie, I can’t. I don’t know. Gotta ask the doctors. it’s supposed to help me. I know that. I just went into it. I trust the doctors, I trust the people helping me.”
It seems that the doctors did tell him one other thing, though, and that it’s in Walker’s best interest to take things slow when it comes to his return to action for the Celtics in 2021.
“I met with a few [doctors], about two [and] the goal was just to get to the bottom of things and figure out what would help me get back to who I am as a player,” Walker said of the process that led to a stem-cell injection in his wonky left knee. “That’s what we decided to do. Decided not to rush back, take my time, and just get healthy. I’ve had a pretty long run. Haven’t had much of a break since I signed here. So, think it will be nice for me, to tell you the truth.”
This confirms what we all knew while watching bubble hoops this past summer: Walker wasn’t close to 100 percent. Never. The knee wasn’t strengthening with more reps, and he was, again, never truly close to 100 percent. That felt obvious at times. In numbers alone, too. Just look at Walker’s three-point success, or lack thereof. Connecting on just 39 of his 126 looks from deep over a 17-game postseason run, Walker’s 31 percent success rate from deep was a nearly eight percent drop from his regular season figure. It was also the third worst mark of Walker’s career over any extended stretch, ahead of only his 30.5 percent in his rookie season, and a career-worst 30.4 success rate during the 2014-15 regular season.
There were flashes of the Cardiac Kemba the C’s committed max money to, of course, but it was never consistent. Walker called laboring through that pain ‘completely physical’ and not at all mental, which certainly appeared to be the case.
And it was an obviously miserable experience for him, too.
“Last year in the playoffs, I wasn’t at my best, and it sucked,” Walker confirmed. “I don’t wanna be that way anymore.”
With this hanging over their head, and with Walker’s long-term stability undoubtedly on their mind, the Celtics have provided Walker with multiple insurance options in the last month alone, drafting Payton Pritchard and signing veteran Jeff Teague.
Walker called the depth important, especially following the loss of Brad Wanamaker in free agency.
It’s especially important when realizing Walker’s obvious commitment to completing this recovery on a start-to-end schedule.
“I’m coming back when I need to come back and when I’m feeling good to play,” Walker hammered home. “That’s it. I haven’t really been a guy who’s been hurt over the course of my career, so this sucks, but I also love the basketball and I wanna play at a high level in front of the fans who come to watch this game.
“That’s the plan [and] it’s no rush on my end.”
Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. 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.