As the Boston Celtics prepare to resume their 2019-20 campaign on Friday night, the health of their star point guard is a major question mark.
Kemba Walker has been taking it easy on his nagging left knee, and that will continue in the C's first game back against the Milwaukee Bucks. Walker is expected to be limited to 15-20 minutes in the seeding round opener after playing only nine total minutes in the Celtics' three scrimmages.
Although both Walker and head coach Brad Stevens have downplayed Walker's knee issues, NBC Sports' Tom Haberstroh believes they're a real cause for concern in the long term. He explains why in his Eastern Conference Bubble Preview.
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"There’s no two ways about it: Walker’s knee issues should make Boston queasy," Haberstroh writes. "Smaller point guards that depend on lightning-quick movements can’t afford any breakdowns in the kinetic chain. With Rajon Rondo, Kyrie Irving and Isaiah Thomas’ injury issues at point guard over the years, we don’t need to belabor the point about smaller guys having flat tires."
Well, that certainly isn't what C's fans want to hear right about now.
Durability hasn't been an issue for Walker through his nine NBA seasons, but Haberstroh fears all the wear and tear on the 30-year-old's knee is starting to come to the forefront.
"The hope is that his mileage isn’t catching up to him, but there is real concern here from my perspective," Haberstroh adds. "With so much of Walker’s value tied up to one end of the floor, he can’t afford to be a step slow or limited in any fashion."
Haberstroh goes on to note that most teams are dealing with injuries in one way or another, but the Celtics will have to closely monitor Walker throughout the playoffs as they can't afford to have their prized free-agency signing re-aggravate the injury. Boston has $107 million due to Walker over the next three seasons.
Considering how cautious the Celtics have been with Walker in practice and in their three scrimmages, it'd be a surprise to see Stevens overwork Walker if the knee isn't at full strength. However, Stevens says Walker's knee is the "strongest it's been since he got here in September," so we'll just have to see what unfolds over the next one or two months.
Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Bucks, which begins Friday at 5:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 6:30 p.m. You can also stream on the MyTeams App.