The Boston Celtics soon will embark on the 2020-21 season, but they will begin the campaign without their starting point guard.
The Celtics on Tuesday announced Kemba Walker will be sidelined through at least the first week of January after receiving a stem-cell injection in his left knee. Walker’s banged-up knee has been a lingering issue dating back to February.
Both head coach Brad Stevens and president of basketball operations Danny Ainge on Tuesday didn’t sound overly concerned about Walker’s injury. But even if the veteran guard stays on schedule in his recovery, NBA insider Brian Windhorst still believes Walker’s expected absence is significant.
“I think this is one of the most important things in the Eastern Conference to watch early in the season,” Windhorst said Tuesday on ESPN. “Kemba Walker has really been bothered by this since the All-Star break. He’s been dealing with it on and off, and he’s such a different player when he’s live. When you watch him out there, you can tell when he’s feeling good. He’s that kind of electric player. The Celtics here are opening the door to the fact that he might not be right until well into the season. Even when he does come back, they’re expecting him to have limited minutes.
“This is one of the reasons why they signed veteran Jeff Teague — to start in his place if he needs it. But Danny Ainge today said they do not have any plans to use their $27 million trade exception. There are players out there that they could get to help them and maybe they will have to go to that step. But for now, they’re going to stick with what they have on their roster. Let’s see how that develops.”
As Windhorst hints at, the Celtics’ hand might be forced on the trade front if Walker encounters any setbacks. But with a record-setting trade exception in its pocket, Boston has the means to be aggressive leading up to the trade deadline.
Teague is poised to see extended minutes with Walker out of action. Outside of the 32-year-old, the C’s potentially could turn to Tremont Waters and/or rookie Payton Pritchard to help fill Walker’s void.