The Boston Celtics plan to take things slow with Kemba Walker and his nagging knee injury. But that might be easier said than done.
Walker missed 16 games for Boston last season and was on a minutes restriction in the NBA bubble while managing a knee ailment that plagued him throughout the season.
Head coach Brad Stevens recently suggested Walker's minutes limit will continue into the 2020-21 season, and that it will be "some time" before the point guard is playing at "full speed."
According to the Charlotte Observer's Rick Bonnell, who covered Walker during his eight seasons with the Hornets, the tricky part will be getting Walker to buy into a slow ramp-up.
"Kemba is so tough that he is genuinely his own worst enemy," Bonnell told NBC Sports Boston co-hosts Chris Forsberg and Kyle Draper on a new Celtics Talk Podcast.
" ... Kemba was determined to play all 82 games in the season before this, and he did. That was not a good idea. It was a pride thing to him. In the long haul, that doesn't make sense.
"There were definitely times when (Hornets coach) Steve Clifford would say to Kemba, 'Look, you need to tell us when you're not feeling right and that knee is bothering you, and let us be party to the decision about whether you should sit down for a game or two.' "
Walker was one of the NBA's most durable players in Charlotte, missing a total of 32 games over eight seasons that included three campaigns with zero missed games.
All of that mileage appeared to catch up to Walker last season, but Bonnell says that won't make the 30-year-old any more open to missing games due to load management.
"Kemba is the toughest little cuss I know, and I love him for that," Bonnell said. "But that means that sometimes he does not do what's in his own long-term best interest. He is not going to complain, and he's going to be the last person to say, 'I can't go tonight.' "
For that reason, Bonnell believes Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge and his staff should have a frank discussion with Walker about expectations for the 2020-21 season.
"If I were Danny, before training camp starts, I would sit (Walker) down and have a real long talk about, 'You're not a kid anymore, and you need to have honest conversations with our medical people whenever you don't feel quite right,' " Bonnell said.
"Because Kemba will be unselfish, and in a way that is not (how) the organization will want this to work out."
Bonnell also shared some inside information on the Hornets' side of a potential-sign-and-trade for Gordon Hayward, and if Nicolas Batum would make sense for Boston if Charlotte waived him.