BOSTON — Kemba Walker isn’t used to missing this much time.

“I’ve had a blessed career as far as health thus far,” he said, standing in front a large media contingent after the Boston Celtics practice on Monday. “This year, it’s been a little up and down.”

Walker missed his fifth straight game with left knee soreness that included getting the knee drained after the All-Star game. The Celtics have been working with Walker to strengthen the knee and slowly ramp him up to full health by the playoffs. That includes a plan to likely keep him out of back-to-backs for the rest of the regular season, something that’s been tough for Walker to wrap his head around.

“I’m trying…this is all different,” he said, “It’s about me understanding what this is about and being able to compete at a high level for the playoffs. That’s really all I’m thinking about.”

When he does play, he’s going to be on a minutes restriction, which will likely mean him sitting on the bench for stretches he’d normally play.

“Whatever minutes he plays, he’s going to have to play it at full throttle, and that’s part of getting back,” Celtics Coach Brad Stevens said. “But that’s why he’ll also be limited.”


Stevens will have to be judicious in when he uses Walker throughout the game. Jayson Tatum’s recent leap has made the loss of Walker palatable, but it doesn’t mean he hasn’t been missed. There are times, especially against a stout defense like the Celtics saw against the Houston Rockets, that Walker’s unique skills could come in very handy.

“He just has the ability to make plays with very simple spacing because of his speed, quickness, and skill,” Stevens said. “I think that, you can tell in games like we’ve had over the last week, where it’s hard to score at times, that’s when you miss his burst and that motor.”

The big picture is to have Walker join in the big-minute fun the rest of his teammates enjoyed against the Rockets. Most of the starters played close to or more than 40 minutes on Saturday night, and considering the lack of scoring punch off the bench, most will be asked to do that throughout however long a playoff run the Celtics make.

Walker is not used to playoff “runs,” per se. He’s barely used to the playoffs at all, and for the first time in his career, he’s not looking at vacation plans in April. Add that to the preseason FIBA World Cup and Walker’s body has been asked to carry an unprecedented load.

“I’ve had a long summer, I’ve played a lot of basketball. That’s the only reason it’s kind of flared up on me like that,” Walker said. “I’ve played a lot of basketball over the years. It happens. I’ve been blessed over the course of my career to be pretty healthy, but it happens, man. We all get injured at some point. Just gotta deal with it.”

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