Celtics All-Star guard Kemba Walker is likely to return to the court Tuesday against the Brooklyn Nets after missing Boston’s first five games following the All-Star break with left knee soreness.
Walker participated in the team’s practice Monday morning, and the Celtics were formally listing him as probable for the game.
“I just went through practice as normal,” Walker said after practice. “The plan for tomorrow is for me to hopefully be out there. I’m looking forward to that.”
Walker, who had missed a total of 33 games through the first eight years of his NBA career with the Charlotte Hornets — including just four over the past four seasons — has already missed 13 this season, including multiple stretches due to similar bouts with knee soreness.
And while Walker said Monday that the swelling that had built up in his knee has gone away, he said he’ll have to continue to monitor the situation for the rest of the season.
“I’ll be fine. I’ll be fine,” said Walker, who’s averaging 21.8 points and 5.0 assists per game. “It’s really just being cautious. I’m just really taking care of myself. That’s really it. I can’t take any days off. I can’t skip any treatments, any lifts. I’ve got to just stay off of it. I’ll be good.”
Walker’s knee swelled up after the All-Star Game in Chicago, when he played heavier minutes than he had anticipated because of the frantic nature of the untimed fourth quarter. He then got an injection in the knee to help deal with the swelling, and he hasn’t played since.
Coach Brad Stevens said Saturday morning before the Celtics lost to the Houston Rockets that the plan was for Walker to participate in 3-on-3 work Sunday, then to progress to practice Monday if that was successful, and then to play Tuesday — though on a minutes limit — if he came out of that all right.
The plan would likely be for the Celtics to sit Walker for Wednesday’s game in Cleveland, the second half of a back-to-back, before Boston returns home to face the Utah Jazz on Friday and Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday.
Steps 1 and 2 have gone as expected. Now the Celtics will be hoping for the final step to work out as well.
“Obviously, the stats are the stats. But there’s eight to 10 points per game that they’re not really organized points from anybody … he’s going to play off of pick-and-roll, [and] there’s only one guy that can do that at that speed and that pace,” Stevens said of what the Celtics have missed in Walker’s absence. “He’s going to create a play off of his own ability that you just don’t have to account for with a playcall or something to that effect. He just has the ability to make plays with very simple spacing because of his speed, quickness and skill. … 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.”
While the Celtics will be hoping to get Walker back on the court, they’ll also be hoping to have both Marcus Smart and Jayson Tatum alongside him. Smart and Tatum both missed practice Monday due to an illness, and Stevens said he didn’t know whether they would be available to play Tuesday against Brooklyn.
“I don’t have any idea,” Stevens said. “I don’t know if [our doctor] saw them right before practice or if he is going over there after.”
The team also had a doctor in on Monday to speak to the team about the ongoing situation involving the coronavirus, in order to educate the players about the virus and discuss how to put themselves in the best position to avoid getting sick.
“We just had [the doctor] in here today to talk about it, to give the facts about it,” Stevens said. “We’re treating it from our standpoint a lot like we would if a player got the flu, if somebody were to come down with it, and he gave all the facts and all the data and the stats and how we treat it, how to avoid it and all that stuff.”
After a recent outbreak in the Portland area, Trail Blazers star CJ McCollum took to Twitter to tell fans he wouldn’t be signing autographs for the foreseeable future as a result. Walker said it was something he has considered as well.
“I might be with him,” Walker said. “I don’t know. It’s getting serious, I’ll tell you that much. Everyone just needs to be a little cautious about that virus. About everything. I’m pretty sure I’m still gonna sign some autographs. [But] maybe I should walk around with my own marker or something.”