Kemba Walker will have a chip on his shoulder when the 2019-20 NBA season resumes later this month.
The Boston Celtics point guard had a disappointing finish to the campaign prior to it being put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Walker dealt with a nagging knee injury and struggled to put up the consistent numbers he's capable of producing.
That's why the NBA's four-month hiatus could be a blessing in disguise for Walker and the C's when they return to action in Orlando, Fla. The time off gave Walker much-needed time to let his knee recover, and having him at full strength could be the key for Boston as it looks to make a run for Banner No. 18.
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Walker recently explained how much the NBA layoff helped him return to form.
"It was super important for me," said Walker. "I really, really needed that break. It definitely helped me get back to myself and start to feel comfortable on my knee. It was a very unfortunate time but it was in my best interest for sure. So yeah, I'm pretty comfortable with the way the schedule is and I'm just going to keep on taking care of myself. That's really all I can do. So I'm just going to stay on top of things and take it day by day."
In a brand new episode of the Celtics Talk Podcast, A. Sherrod Blakely, Chris Forsberg, and Kyle Draper discussed Walker's importance to the C's going forward and how motivated the 30-year-old will be after his tough finish to the pre-pandemic part of the season.
"When you look at the roster, when you look at their core guys, there's only one guy that was on the load management train near the end of the stoppage of play, and that's Kemba Walker," Blakely said. "He's so important to this team but the thing that I like about Kemba Walker is I think he's embraced the fact that as much as he's had to carry the load this time of year in the few times he's been in the playoffs, he doesn't have to be that guy this time around.
"I think he's going to come in with an edge and an attitude. He did not finish the pre-pandemic stage of the season playing great basketball. He's pissed about that. He knows that there are going to be questions of whether he's really ready for the playoffs because he's never been in a situation like this where there are actual expectations for success. I think we're going to see the best Kemba Walker that we've seen all season."
Forsberg agreed with Blakely's assessment, stressing how imperative it will be to have a healthy Kemba operating at 100 percent when the C's begin the postseason.
"Tatum was so good for the last couple of months that it's easy to forget how bad Kemba was at the finish line there," Forsberg said. "It wasn't by the fault of his own, but he was so good through 46 games and then the knee flared, he had to get those injections, he had to take nine games off and he just wasn't the same player.
"I think we all know if the Celtics are going to have any chance Kemba's got to be at a high level. If he can get back to being anywhere near the guy he was at the start of the season, the one that was setting everybody up, who was shooting 38.8 percent from the 3-point arc. That Kemba's going to be really, really important in the playoffs."
Also in the new episode, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens shared his mindset heading into the "bubble," whether he believes the winner of this year's NBA championship should get an asterisk, and much more.