The Celtics may get a hidden benefit from the league-wide shutdown because it gives Kemba Walker more time to recover from his left knee issue, writes Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. Walker played in the last three games before the hiatus, but was limited to about 30-32 minutes per night. He had missed six of the previous seven games due to persistent knee soreness.
Bulpett talked to president of basketball operations Danny Ainge about the importance of having Walker fully healthy for the rest of the season.
“I think managing all of our players is important, but, yeah, managing Kemba is very important because Kemba has the ability, as we saw in November and December, to be very, very special,” Ainge said. “And he was doing a lot of the same things that we see Jayson (Tatum) doing now. It’s important that we have those guys playing their best to give us the best chance in the playoffs.”
Ainge admits the “wear and tear” of playing for Team USA during the World Cup last summer may be having an effect on Walker, but he doesn’t believe the organization should have handled the situation any differently.
Ainge addresses a few other topics in the interview:
- Without mentioning Kyrie Irving by name, Ainge acknowledges that the switch from Irving to Walker has been good for team morale. The reports of locker room turmoil that surfaced frequently last season have virtually disappeared. “I think that all of the guys’ attitudes this year have been pleasant, great, and there’s been more on the same page,” he said. “Last year, we just had more mouths to feed, and it just didn’t work. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. And this year we have less mouths to feed, so to speak, and it’s been better. But it would be nice to have everybody healthy, because I think we’re going to need everybody in order to reach where we want to be.”
- Ainge is optimistic about the young core the team has in place, led by Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart. “I think (Tatum’s) getting a lot of opportunities, a lot of chances,” Ainge said of the third-year forward, who is coming off his first All-Star appearance. “He’s been playing really well. I don’t want to jinx any of that. I’m excited about his development and Jaylen’s development and Marcus’. I think that they’re all getting better right before our eyes.”
- The second seed in the East may be out of reach if the NBA only plays a few games before the playoffs begin, but Ainge doesn’t believe seeding is the most important factor heading into the postseason. “It’s something that we would like, of course, but it’s not more important than being healthy,” he said. “And it never is. Listen, I think home court is important in the playoffs. I don’t think it’s an end all-be all, but I do think it’s important.”