Kemba Walker hasn’t played yet this season because of a knee injury, but the Celtics guard could be back in the lineup soon. Michael Conroy/Associated Press

Kemba Walker’s injured knee hasn’t had a setback, but his return to action may be delayed a bit anyway.

Coach Brad Stevens said last week that Walker wasn’t far away from returning. The next step in the Celtics guard’s return-to-play plan was some five-on-five basketball in practice to see how he felt, how his stamina was and how his knee responded. But since Stevens’ comments, the Celtics have been unable to play or practice because of the NBA’s health and safety protocols. From Sunday until Thursday, the only allowable workouts were one player and one coach at the practice facility at a time, mostly shooting.

Walker continued his knee strengthening activities while waiting for his teammates to return. The Celtics had their first practice of the week Thursday with just nine players.

Walker said he was happier about feeling good physically than frustrated about waiting a little longer.

“I’m going to make the best decision for myself, but honestly I’m feeling pretty good right now,” Walker said. “The way I’m feeling right now is different than the way I was feeling before I went into the bubble. I’ve just been able to take my time. I’ve attacked my rehab from day one. I wanted to get healthy. I want to stay healthy and try my best not to have any setbacks. That’s the plan. Whenever I’m feeling good and whenever I’m mentally ready to get out there, I will.”

Stevens said he’s pleased with Walker’s progress.

“He’s been able to continue to do his rehab and one-on-one sessions and the strengthening has gone fantastic. He’s put in a ton of work. He went full-go today for an hour with us. He did not go live, but we did a lot of up and down trying to get our legs back for guys who haven’t done anything in a week and he looked good,” Stevens said. “What that means as far as the next step and when to play, that’s a decision for Kemba and our training staff. I think they put together a hell of a plan. … This has been a planned out day-by-day well-executed deal by our training staff and by Kemba. When he comes back, it’ll be because he’s ready and he feels ready to be Kemba.”

Danny Ainge, the team’s president and general manager, shared his coaches’ overall optimism.

“The challenge with Kemba is he’s working, but with all these tests and with our team and our inability to practice and do anything other than one-on-zero workouts, it’s hard to get Kemba the reps that he needs and the real basketball he needs to get out on the court to play a game,” Ainge said on his weekly radio interview on the Sports Hub. “Kemba has progressed well. He’s worked extremely hard. I’m excited about his return and I know he’s excited to get back on the court.”

Walker said he’s been impressed with how the team has played without him and singled out Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.

”J.B. and J.T., they’ve been absolutely just killing it. They’ve been taking their games to a whole other level,” Walker said. “It’s really been exciting to watch. I’ve really seen these two guys in the gym, working on their game, continuously getting better. For me, being close up. that’s what makes me their biggest fan, the hard work that nobody sees. Their work ethic is second to none.”

Walker is just hoping to complement what’s already happening when he’s ready.

“I’m just hoping to come back and add on to that and help with some leadership,” he said. “Hopefully, I can come back and bring that energy, that extra spark. It’ll be exciting.”

AINGE SAID he had conversations with the Houston Rockets about James Harden’s availability, but the Celtics decided not to pursue a trade.

Harden instead landed in Brooklyn as part of a four-team deal that created a superstar trio with, Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

In his weekly radio interview, Ainge said what he understood the price for Harden was more than he was comfortable spending.

“James Harden is a great player. Everybody knows that. He’s one of the best offensive players who has ever played the game in any era. James is a great player. I think every team in the league respects him and fears him as an opponent,” the Celtics’ president and general manager said. “We had conversations regarding James. Not recently, but we did have conversations.”

Ainge said the Rockets’ asking price never came down.

“We had numerous conversations, but the price wasn’t changing and the price was really high for us. It was something we didn’t want to do,” he said. “Even the people in our organization that respected (Harden) and wanted him more, I think unanimously we decided it wasn’t the time for us and it wasn’t the price.”

Ainge was asked if he thought Harden’s ability to force his way out of Houston signified players having too much control.

“I don’t think so. I think those are the extreme circumstances, players that have so much power and are paid so much money and generate so much attention around the league,” Ainge said.

In Brooklyn, Harden joins Irving, the former Celtic who has been absent from the Nets for personal reasons. Amid rumors of frustration with both current events and Nets management, Irving is also being investigated for a breach of NBA COVID-19 protocols after a video surfaced of him maskless at a party.

Ainge was asked hypothetically about how he’d handle a situation like a player leaving the team unexpectedly.

“Every person is different. Every circumstance is different. I’m not judging anybody,” he said. “I learned a long time ago not to judge anybody until you know their story. I don’t know the story. I’m not going to be critical of anybody until I know what’s going on.”

Comments are not available on this story.