Enes Kanter Show: It could get ugly for opponents when Kemba Walker is healthy

Enes Kanter Show: It could get ugly for opponents when Kemba Walker is healthy

Kemba Walker continues to be eased back into action due to a nagging left knee injury, but his performance through the Boston Celtics' first two games of the NBA restart is encouraging.

Even with limited playing time, Walker has stood out as one of the best players on the court. The C's guard tallied 16 points in 19 minutes vs. the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday, and 14 in 22 minutes vs. the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday.

All signs point to Walker being on the verge of 100 percent, and the thought of that has Celtics teammate Enes Kanter excited about what's to come.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Heat, which begins Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 6:30 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Kanter raved about Walker in a brand new episode of The Enes Kanter Show and made it clear that opponents will have their hands full with the All-Star when he's fully healthy.

Enes Kanter Show: It could get ugly for opponents when Kemba’s healthy | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube

"Once he's 100 percent in game shape, like, oh my God. It's going to be ugly for other teams," Kanter said. "Because like, that's Kemba Walker. He was in my draft class. I played against him for nine years and I hated going against him.

"I knew there'd come a day where he's gonna be fine. Even if he doesn't play for months and months, it's just in his blood. He just can go out there and just hoop. He's just a hooper, that's it."

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens has been extremely cautious with Walker, sticking to a strict minutes restriction through the first couple of games in the Orlando bubble.

Walker understands Stevens' approach and isn't one to complain, but it hasn't been easy for him to watch his Celtics teammates compete without him.

"Oh man, he's dying [for more minutes]," Kanter said with a laugh. "Especially like the last few minutes of the game. I mean, he's a game-changer. He's a leader and a game-changer, you know? He wants to be out there and just take ownership. But now Brad is like, 'OK, this is just the beginning, take it easy. We've got a long way to go.'

"But I think that just shows his heart, man. This dude just signed one of the biggest shoe deals out there. He can just say, 'You know what, I'm just gonna rest.' But no, he just wants to go out there and be with his teammates and win. He even wants to go out there and play 25-30 minutes in exhibition games. That shows character, man. And leadership."

Also discussed on the show: Kanter described the emotion of players kneeling during the national anthem, Jaylen Brown’s leadership on and off the court, Grant Williams’ basketball IQ and the inside scoop behind Jayson Tatum’s haircut.

You can listen and subscribe to The Enes Kanter Show here, or watch on YouTube.

Enes Kanter Show: Kemba Walker has inspirational message for Celtics

Enes Kanter Show: Kemba Walker has inspirational message for Celtics

Boston Celtics All-Star point guard Kemba Walker is still ramping up his practice activity but, according to teammate Enes Kanter, he’s been extremely vocal about what the Celtics can accomplish at the NBA’s Orlando restart.

"Actually, we had a [team] meeting and, in the middle of the meeting, [Walker] stepped up and said, ‘Listen, man, we have something really special in this locker room. We are like brothers. So let’s just go out there, let’s compete, have fun, and win this championship. Let's show the whole world that we can do it,’”  Kanter said Wednesday from inside the bubble on “The Enes Kanter Show” podcast.

"Everybody was so gassed up like, ‘OK, let’s go.’”

Download the MyTeams app for the latest Celtics news and analysis

Kanter hinted it might not be a coincidence that the Celtics produced what Kanter dubbed the best practice of his nine-year career right around the time of Walker’s statement. Kanter said that Walker has been particularly vocal, even while limited in practice activities while strengthening a sore knee, and said that, when Walker speaks up like that, teammates take notice.

"Kemba, he lets his game talk. That’s like the best way to put it,” said Kanter. "But when he comes out and says, 'OK, hey, we have something very special in our locker room, let’s go out there and show the whole world that we have enough in our locker room to win the whole thing,’ that will for sure get you going, get you excited, gets you like, ‘OK, let’s do this.’”

Enes Kanter Show: Why C's have NBA's best chemistry | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube

The Celtics have treaded carefully with Walker after he experienced pain in his left knee after resuming individual workouts in Boston last month. But, this week, he’s engaged in most non-live work, including an hour of practice activity on Tuesday. The team was scheduled to reevaluate him on Wednesday’s offday with hope that he might engage in 5-on-5 work as early as Thursday’s practice.

Kanter consistently said in previous weeks that Celtics fans shouldn’t worry about Walker’s health.

"I was never worried about Kemba, man. He's one of those players that, like, it doesn’t matter how much you take off. When you come back, you still got it,” said Kanter. "And I hate that. Me, I have to work … this dude just comes in, right, starts making those 3s. He makes it look like he never took any days off.

"And I hate that. I had to work five to six weeks to get in game shape. I never worry about Kemba. I know he’s going to come in and do everything he can to get healthy for this team. … He's definitely very excited about [the playoff potential]. He wants to go out there, win, and compete with his team.”

Can Grant Williams suddenly be a 3-point sharp-shooter for Celtics?

Can Grant Williams suddenly be a 3-point sharp-shooter for Celtics?

Over the first 62 games of his rookie season, Grant Williams displayed a high basketball IQ, NBA-ready strength, and a Marcus Smart-like ability to make good things happen whenever he was on the court.

But the one thing that held Williams back was his shooting and an inability to keep defenses honest by knocking down open 3-point looks.

Download the MyTeams app for the latest Celtics news and analysis

Williams missed the first 25 3-point attempts of his pro career and shot only 24.7 percent overall beyond the arc. Even if you wipe away those initial misses, Williams shot a mere 32.3 percent after his first make, a number that still needs to rise to prevent teams from sagging off him.

Shooting was a focus for Williams since the NBA season paused. Bunking with All-Star point guard Kemba Walker during quarantine had to help his shot, too, right?

Celtics big man Enes Kanter offered an encouraging update from inside Boston’s initial bubble practices in Orlando.

"Let me tell you something about Grant, he is making 3s like crazy. I promise,” Kanter said on this week’s “The Enes Kanter Show,” on the NBC Sports Boston podcast network. "The Celtics fans might not believe this but he is one of like the most sharpest shooters on the team. I think he worked so hard during the quarantine time, now he’s like a 3-man.

“When he's shooting 3, you gotta respect that; if you close him out, he’s beating you with a dribble. I’m excited about him.”

Enes Kanter Show: Calming the concern on Kemba | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube

Take Kanter’s scouting report with a grain of salt. He’s an elite teammate with a propensity for talking up players. But even if Williams is simply closer to a league-average 3-point shooter when games restart, that could be a big boost for Boston.

If Williams can keep defenses honest, it increases the chances that coach Brad Stevens can trust him in his playoff rotation. For a Boston team thin on experience after their top 7, having at least one rookie emerge as a reliable playoff option is critical. Williams would be particularly valuable because there is likely to be a series where the Celtics must lean on small-ball lineups and Kanter’s playing time could be limited in those instances.

Meeting with reporters during a Zoom session last week, Williams looked leaner and hinted at an increased confidence in his abilities.

"If you ask any of the guys on the team, I’m still a rookie. But, for me, I just feel confident in my abilities now, more confident than I was at the beginning of the year,” said Williams. "It’s rare to not only play against the best athletes, like I was before, but before I was kind of nervous, I feel like, and during the year got me accustomed to realize you belong here.

"So for me it’s more confidence and more able to do a lot of better things on the court. So hopefully I just expand my role and help this team get to what our goal is.”

During a previous Zoom call from Boston before the team departed, Williams also noted his desire to improve his perimeter play.

"It’s something that we all have to go through. I used [the break] as an advantage more so to work on my game, my ball-handling more so, and just become more comfortable as a perimeter player,” said Williams.

Here’s why a 3-point shot is so important for Williams. Despite playing mostly back-to-the-basket in college, 40.6 percent of his shots during his rookie season were catch-and-shoot, according to NBA tracking data, and he made only 25.6 percent of them. What’s more, nearly 30 percent of all his jump shots outside of 10 feet were deemed “wide open” (no defender within 6 feet) and Williams made only 26.3 percent of those attempts.

Defenses will stray, especially in the playoffs, and that will force stars like Walker and Jayson Tatum to battle more double teams if Williams is on the floor. He has to keep teams honest.

And a consistent 3-point shot is the best weapon against a wandering defender.