With the Celtics’ schedule more spread out in recent weeks than it was earlier in the season, Kemba Walker has been able to get into a rhythm. The Celtics have kept Walker from playing in game two of back-to-backs as he works his way back from a knee injury, but he’s missed just two games in the C’s last 12, making it one of his most active stretches of the season.
Now in the regular rotation while still getting his regular rest, Walker is playing some of his best basketball of the season. During that 12 game stretch (during which the team is 8-4), he’s averaging 18 points, six assists, and four rebounds per game.
Celtics GM Danny Ainge has noticed a difference in Walker’s game as well. “You know, [Walker] might have looked as fresh and bouncy and into it as he as he has all year in a game the other night,” Ainge told Toucher & Rich Thursday morning.
According to Ainge, Walker’s improvement goes beyond the extra rest he got earlier in the season. It’s been a focused effort by the 30-year-old to put as much of himself as he can into this season. “If you watch Kemba work out in the weight room after games, you would be amazed at how hard he works and just how hard he’s grinding, and his body is doing better and his knee is getting stronger. It’s been very impressive,” Ainge mentioned.
After winning six of their last seven games, the Celtics have vaulted back into the middle of a jam packed Eastern Conference playoff race. The team is currently in fifth place, a game out of fourth but just two and half games above ninth. That begs the question, as games start to matter more in terms of playoff seeding, could the team have Walker play both ends of any of the four remaining back-to-backs on the schedule?
“I think that that would be have to have some playoff consequences before we probably move there,” Ainge said, adding that the Celtics “don’t want to get in the way of [Walker’s] routine.” Of the eight remaining back-to-back games, three are against teams jostling with the C’s for playoff position (NY, CHA, MIA).
Ultimately, the goal for Walker is to have him healthy once the playoffs roll around. If the Celtics can keep winning like they have for the last two weeks, it should lessen the importance of some of those back-to-backs later in the season. However, if push comes to shove, it appears the Celtics are ready to go all-out with Kemba Walker – if they really need to.
You can listen to Toucher & Rich’s full discussion with Danny Ainge below.
Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at abarth@985TheSportsHub.com.