Kemba Walker is set to be unleashed.
After playing on a minutes restriction in the six seeding games he appeared in due to issues with his left knee, the Celtics have lifted Walker’s minutes restriction ahead of the start of the playoffs.
“He’s fine, he’s ready to roll,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens told reporters Saturday. “It’s been a good plan of attack by our training staff. And Kemba obviously played well and minutes wise, should be in good shape.”
Walker actually didn’t find out that his minutes restriction was lifted until reporters asked him about it after Stevens spoke.
“I didn’t even know it was lifted, honestly. I’m happy to hear that,” Walker said.
Walker’s knee issues first began in February when he had swelling and soreness in his left knee. He received Synvisc injections and had his knee drained, causing him to miss 10 games over two stretches.
Walker’s knee issues came back when he had “a little bit of discomfort” in the same knee when the Celtics were working out in Boston before traveling down to Orlando in July. He only played in one of the three scrimmages before the seeding games, playing nine minutes in the Celtics’ matchup against the Suns.
The Celtics started the minutes restriction by having Walker play just 19 minutes in their first seeding game against the Bucks. Walker’s minutes increased each game, and he eventually played 32 minutes in team’s overtime win against the Magic last Sunday. Walker was held out from the Celtics’ game against the Nets, which was the second game of a back-to-back, and their game against the Wizards, which was their last seeding game where they also sat all of their other starters.
Walker’s performance seemed to improve as each seeding game passed. He averaged 14.2 points in 25.2 minutes in six games, shooting 49.1 percent from the field and 42.3 percent from 3-point range as the Celtics went 4-2.
The Celtics finished 5-3 overall in the seeding games, giving them a 48-24 record for the regular season which was good enough for the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
In his eight seasons with the Charlotte Hornets, Walker made the playoffs only twice and never earned a seed as high as the 3-seed. He didn’t win a series in either playoff trip, but he seems optimistic that this time will be different.
“These guys who I play with each and every night, they’re a special group, special talents,” Walker said. “Everyone brings something different and unique to our team and night in and night out you just never know who that guy is going to be, because we have a lot, especially on the perimeter.”
The Celtics will face the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the playoffs. They went 1-3 against the Sixers this season, with Walker missing the team’s lone win against them due to the knee issues in February. Walker averaged 22.3 points and 4.3 assists per game while shooting 37.3 percent from the field and 36.7 percent from 3-point territory in the three games he played against the Sixers this season.
Walker predicts that the first round will be a tough one.
“It’s going to be a battle. It’s going to be a hard-fought battle,” Walker said. “Philly is a really good team with some great players. We’re just looking forward to the challenge.”
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