Kemba Walker has playoff experience, but each of his two career appearances didn't last very long.
The Boston Celtics guard played with the Charlotte Hornets for the first nine years of his career before signing with the C's in free agency last summer. Both of his trips to the playoffs resulted in first-round defeats to the Miami Heat -- a sweep in 2013-14 and a seven-game battle in 2015-16.
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Walker averaged 19.5 points per game in the 2014 series loss, and 22.7 points in the 2016 defeat. His third playoff appearance will come in August when the Celtics start what they hope will be a run to the 2020 NBA Finals.
Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer covered Walker's Bobcats/Hornets career, and he joined the latest episode of the Celtics Talk Podcast to talk about what Celtics fans can expect from the veteran point guard when the 2020 playoffs begin.
"You guys need to get some video of Game 6, particularly the fourth quarter against the Heat in 2016," Bonnell said. "When he and Dwyane Wade got in this fantastic duel, ultimately D-Wade won it, but it was -- I've covered the league for 30 years and I've never seen a better example of 'anything you can do I can do better'. It was possession by possession by possession -- it was magnificent basketball. ... Kemba will get you out of bad possessions. He will make something out of nothing. I think the significant difference, and this is important -- Kemba never played with a lot of talent other than Al Jefferson when he was (in Charlotte). He doesn't need to do it all now."
One of the challenges for players during training camp next month before games start again is getting into shape. It's not easy or normal to have a few months off in the middle of the season and then soon be thrown into a playoff-like atmosphere. Bonnell doesn't think the long layoff will negatively affect Walker, however.
"Obviously, everyone has to deal with that issue, but knowing Kemba as I do, knowing that he came back down here -- knowing he had access to a personal gym, I believe inside of his house in Charlotte," Bonnell explained. "I think he's the last guy you need to worry about with that."
Jayson Tatum is the Celtics' best player and could be the team's first option late in games when it desperately needs a basket. Walker is certainly capable of filling that role, too, and for the Celtics to make a deep run in the playoffs, he needs to consistently play at a high level. That means scoring 20-plus points each game and taking quality shots. When Walker is scoring at a high rate, it makes the rest of the team's job so much easier. It's harder for opposing defenses to double team Tatum, Jaylen Brown or even Gordon Hayward when Walker is shooting at a high percentage.
Bonnell is right. Walker doesn't have to carry the entire scoring burden in Boston like he did in Charlotte. This scenario should allow him to be more efficient with his shots and find the right moments to attack defenses with his impressive scoring ability.