What impact do Kemba Walker's limited minutes have on the rest of the Celtics?

What impact do Kemba Walker's limited minutes have on the rest of the Celtics?

BOSTON -- Kemba Walker still has that killer-crossover that creates space and for defenders, makes their ankles a little wobbly. 

And despite his diminutive size, Walker still manages to bob and weave his way through traffic at the rim.

But the 99-94 loss to the Utah Jazz on Friday night was yet another reminder that Walker isn’t quite himself.

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And with him playing limited minutes with shorter playing stints, there’s no sense as to whether Walker’s overall impact will rise to the level so many are accustomed to seeing from the four-time All-Star. 

It has also led to changes in the Celtics rotation, which has complicated the process in how to best divvy up his minutes as well as those of leading scorer Jayson Tatum.

“It’s tough,” said Walker, referring to playing shorter stints and fewer minutes overall. “Obviously, just come in and out of the game pretty fast.”

In the loss to the Jazz, it was Boston’s third consecutive defeat at home - the longest such streak this season - in addition to preventing the Celtics (42-20) from officially clinching a playoff berth. 

Several factors contributed to the loss, among them being Walker scoring just 13 points on 5-for-17 shooting while logging just under 27 minutes of court time. 

While much of the focus of late on the injury front for Boston has centered around Walker and the team’s load management plan for him, ignoring the domino effect that his minutes restriction is having on the rest of the team is unavoidable. 

Tatum’s minutes played will still be in the low-to-mid 30s, but Friday was a game in which the usual substitution pattern involving Tatum was aborted. 

On Friday, Tatum played slightly less than 33 minutes and scored 18 points. 

But Tatum did so on a less-than-efficient 7-for-19 shooting night with most of his time off the floor coming in the second quarter - he did not enter the game in the second quarter until the 2:57 mark, a span of more than nine minutes. 

“He’s played a lot of minutes in the last month and a half,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens who added, “And so he played the whole first [quarter] which is unusual for him. Usually, he comes out in three stints."

Another major factor in Stevens' decision to change up the substitution pattern was injuries that kept Boston's other primary wing players - Jaylen Brown (hamstring) and Gordon Hayward (knee) - out Friday night. 

Their absence forced Stevens to tweak his rotation which he acknowledged in hindsight could have potentially been handled better by himself.

“If I had to do it over again I might get him [Tatum] back in a little earlier,” Stevens said before adding, “but also know we’ve just got to figure out a way to play without him some. You know? And it’s obviously a little harder, with those other guys out.”

Playing short-handed continues to be the overriding narrative of this Celtics team.

That becomes even thornier given Walker's minutes restriction while the team is trying to establish a new normal between him and Tatum, whose play has been among the best in the NBA since the All-Star break. 

The Celtics have a number of issues that they have to work through in the coming weeks without question. 

But Walker remains confident that those issues will be addressed and solved in time for Boston to make that strong postseason push they envision for themselves this season. 

“We’ll be alright,” Walker said. “We just have to figure it out; we’ll be fine. We just need guys to get healthy. That’s most important, especially heading into the playoffs.”

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NBA Rumors: Celtics 'most likely' will offer Jayson Tatum max contract after season

NBA Rumors: Celtics 'most likely' will offer Jayson Tatum max contract after season

Just before the 2019-20 NBA season was suspended due to the coronavirus, Jayson Tatum was turning into a superstar before our very eyes. Now, it appears the Boston Celtics are ready to pay him like one.

Saturday on SportsCenter, ESPN's Brian Windhorst said the C's "most likely" will offer the No. 3 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft a max contract this offseason.

"If Jayson Tatum is the superstar that they envisioned when they began this whole rebuilding process when they traded Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce for all of those draft picks hoping to land a player like this, we could see 'Glory Days' for the Celtics again," Windhorst said, as transcribed by Bleacher Report.

"But it's very much up in the air, and I'm gonna tell ya, they're gonna have to pay him like it because after this season ends, he is going to get most likely a max contract. They're going to bet that he becomes that player."

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The Celtics recently have signed both Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown to four-year contract extensions, so signing Tatum to a max deal and locking up their core for the foreseeable future seems like a no-brainer. One potential hurdle for Danny Ainge and the C's front office, however, is the effect the coronavirus pandemic could have on the league's 2020-21 salary cap.

Regardless, we can expect Boston to do whatever it takes to assure their budding superstar is here to stay. This season, the 22-year-old leads the team with 23.6 points per game while averaging 7.1 rebounds and shooting 39.8 percent from 3-point range. He was named an All-Star for the first time in his promising career.

Tatum currently is set to make $9.9 million next year on his rookie contract.

Celtics will return to limited practice routine starting June 1

Celtics will return to limited practice routine starting June 1

The Boston Celtics will move one step closer towards preparing for the remainder of this season, with voluntary individual player workouts beginning at the team’s practice facility on June 1. 

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced on Friday that professional teams in the state could resume practicing soon. 

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“I know we still aren’t to the point where we’ll have our pro sports teams back playing anything yet,” Baker said in a press conference at the State House. “The leagues are obviously working hard to host games again. And I think we all hope that at some point, opening practice facilities will help make that happen a little sooner.”

Danny Ainge, the Celtics’ President of Basketball Operations, echoed similar sentiments on Friday. 

“We’re happy that our players will now have the option to work out individually in a safe environment at the Auerbach Center,” Ainge said. “And we hope it signals a step back towards playing basketball again.”

The Celtics added that the workouts will adhere to strict protocols that include but are not limited to the following:

  • Workouts are voluntary & will be conducted in strict accordance with city, state, CDC, and NBA requirements and guidelines.
  • Symptom and temperature checks will be done by team medical staff before anyone enters the facility.
  • Workouts will be limited to individual (1-on-0) shooting, strength and conditioning work, and medical evaluation and therapy as needed.
  • Only essential areas will be accessed. There will be no access to locker rooms, showers, hydrotherapy, medical exam rooms, cafeteria, and offices.
  • Only four players will be able to work out at a time, each working with only one staff member at a time. There will be no more than one player per half court at a time.
  • All staff members will wear masks in the building, and any staff member working with a player must wear gloves. Players will wear masks except while engaging in physical activity. Players and staff will adhere to CDC and NBA compliant social distancing standards at all times.
  • Social distancing will be required in the building except in limited specific instances  (e.g. physical therapy), when PPE will be used.
  • A thorough cleaning and disinfection of all spaces and equipment, including basketballs, will take place before and after each player uses the building.
  • Only staff members essential to these workouts will be present at the Auerbach Center. There will be no access for general staff, public, or media. 

While no definitive date has been set for the NBA to resume play, NBA commissioner Adam Silver has reportedly told owners that the league is targeting July 31 as a return-to-play date. 

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