The scouting report on Kemba Walker has long suggested a player that sometimes doesn’t look out for his own well-being, someone who will play through pain just to stay on the court.
Which is why it was so jarring to hear Walker admit Wednesday that he wasn’t himself last season because of lingering soreness in his left knee. And, on the heels of a stem-cell injection, Walker said he’s on board with Boston’s plan to sit him out at the start of the 2020-21 season with the goal of getting his knee healthy before he returns to game action.
"There's no rush. There's no rush on my end. I'm coming back when I need to come back, and when I'm feeling good to play. So that's it,” Walker said near the end of his 11-minute Zoom chat with reporters from the Auerbach Center.
“I haven't really been a guy who has been hurt over the course of my career. So this sucks. But I also love the game of basketball and I want to play at a high level in front of the fans who come to watch this game. So I want to be at my best. The last time in the playoffs, I wasn't at my best, and that sucked. I don't want to be that way no more.”
Letting down his guard throughout the session, Walker admitted that his balky knee impacted his postseason performance.
"It was tough, man, you know? It was tough,” said Walker. “But everybody is banged up. I try not to make any excuses, to be real with you. I played through it, I was able to get through it, I had a great time with my teammates. Unfortunately, [the bubble run] didn't end like we wanted it to. But we battled.
"I thought I battled as best as I can, to tell you the truth. But it was tough. But now I'm looking to just get better and contribute to this team like I know I can.”
Walker had a blistering start to his Boston tenure and was named an Eastern Conference All-Star. But his performance dipped early in the 2020 calendar year. He had hoped downtime during the pandemic would get him healthy but the soreness reappeared as Boston resumed workouts before entering the bubble.
Walker averaged 19.6 points per game during the bubble playoffs but shot just 31 percent beyond the 3-point arc and lacked his typical explosion when trying to attack the basket.
After the season, he sought the advice of multiple knee specialists with a goal to "figure out what would help me to get back to who I am as a player.” He seems to have put his full trust into those doctors, light-heartedly admitting he doesn’t even really understand the stem-cell injection process.
"I can’t lie, I can’t [explain it]. I don't know. You got to ask the doctors,” said a smiling Walker. "It’s supposed to help me, I know that. It's supposed to help me. A lot of good stuff for the knee. I just went into it. I trust the doctors. I trust the people that are helping me. It was the best way to go.
"It’s definitely calmed my knee down a lot, to tell you the truth. I'm feeling really good right now. Just, like I said, just taking my time and trying to continue to feel good and get stronger.”
Walker said his body will tell him when he’s ready to dive into game action.
"The way I felt, the last couple of months, if I don’t feel that way, then I’m better, to tell you the truth,” said Walker. "Because, to be honest, it wasn’t good. I wasn’t myself, didn’t feel good. Yeah, man, it’s really just about being comfortable, 100 percent comfortable when I’m making my move. Not having any thoughts and thinking that it’s going to be pain when I land and things of that nature. So I think that will be the signs of me feeling good again.”