Nestled inside a blitz of questions about the balky left knee that had kept him from participating in live action until Thursday morning, Kemba Walker made clear what is most important to him as the Boston Celtics prepare to resume the 2019-20 NBA season.
Asked about the balance of delivering his typical All-Star production and facilitating the growth of the young stars like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, Walker said that postseason wins are far more important than his point total.
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"I knew what I was getting myself into when I came here,” said Walker. "I knew how much room for improvement these guys had, and those two guys are two special talents. It’s not a problem for me at all. I know I’m being part of the growth. It’s fun. We’re playing fun basketball.
"I’ve been averaging 20-plus points for the last couple of years, so it’s not a problem for me at all. I just want to get to the playoffs and make runs in the playoffs. That’s my main focus. I could care less about points and stuff like that at this point. Everybody knows what they’re going to get from me on a nightly basis. Yeah, it’s about those guys, man. It’s about those guys and their growth, it’s about those guys getting better. Me and Gordon [Hayward] are the two guys who are going to help those guys develop as much as possible.”
Watching the way that Walker has embraced his young teammates since arriving in Boston, this isn’t a revelation. But it reaffirms that winning is all that matters to Walker at this stage of his career.
It also hammers home the notion that Walker recognizes the potential of this team and what it can accomplish with two veteran All-Stars, in him and Hayward, and two young stars in Tatum and Brown, along with some complementary talent headlined by guys like Marcus Smart.
After Enes Kanter revealed how Walker delivered a championship message to his teammates this week, Walker admitted he’s just embracing the situation after never having a team quite like this during his Charlotte tenure.
"I’m just kind of being myself,” said Walker. "I’m not even looking at it like that. It’s definitely a different opportunity for me, a situation I kind of haven’t been in but, at the end of the day, it’s still basketball.
I’m going to go out there and give it everything I’ve got. That’s really all I can do, and that’s what’s made me who I am today, just going out there and playing ball and having fun and just playing hard. So that’s what I’m going to do.
Now, about that knee. Walker participated in live action for the first time Thursday and reported back that, "I feel really good, actually. Really fun to get out there with my teammates. … I’m in a good place right now.”
Walker said the long break aided his recovery but admitted his pain returned after engaging in some pickup ball while readying for the restart. He shouted out Celtics trainer Brian Dolan and strength coach Armand Lavallee for their efforts in helping him feel better while noting, "I feel we made a great choice by just keeping me out of some of these practices until I really started to feel right again.”
Walker was also emphatic when he said that surgery had not been considered as an option for the knee.
Right now, his focus is simply on getting the most out of this Celtics team, whether he’s on the court or off.
"I think if anything, just really being on top of my leadership. When things have to be said, when things aren’t going right and everyone’s staying quiet, I have to be the one to step up and talk to my teammates and just get things back on track,” said Walker.
"That’s really about it. I think really just the leadership aspect is where I have to take it to the next level with this team.”