Celtics point guard Kemba Walker received a stem cell injection in his left knee in October and is expected to miss the start of the season. Walker was put on a 12-week strengthening program after the injection and likely will resume on-court activities early this month. An update on his return will be provided during the first week of January, the Celtics said.
President of basketball operations Danny Ainge said Walker saw several knee specialists over the past two months and they all agreed this was the best course of action.
“He’s on a program, seems to be in a very good, happy spot,” Ainge said. “Maybe we didn’t do him justice by bringing him back too fast in the bubble, being hurt and finding some urgency during the regular season. We don’t want to make that mistake, if it was a mistake, this time.
“I’m not blaming anybody. But it’s not a perfect science. It’s guesswork, and we’re trying to do the best with the information that we have and get him as strong and healthy as he can be so he can make it through the year.”
Coach Brad Stevens pointed out that if the NBA were starting in January, as many initially expected, Walker likely would be ready in time for the first game.
“This is about making sure that he feels great, strengthening appropriately, moving at the right pace, and hopefully playing his best basketball,” Stevens said. “I know he’s very committed to that.
“He’s had great work over the last few weeks with regard to strength, but we are going to proceed slow, and I do think the expedited timeline on Dec. 1 impacted him quite a bit in regard to his own timeline of starting the season on time.”
Walker’s knee has caused some issues since his time with the Hornets, and the Celtics limited his playing time during much of last season. Last February, he missed six games after having the knee drained and injected to relieve swelling.
His playing time was ramped up considerably during the playoffs, however. After playing more than 40 minutes just once during the regular season, he topped that mark five times during the postseason.
The Celtics’ last conference finals game was Sept. 27, and there was some concern that such a short break before the start of the 2020-21 campaign could be an issue. The regular season is scheduled to begin Dec. 22.
“This will be an opportunity for Marcus [Smart] to play some point guard again for us, like he did some last year, and did a very good job, and Jeff Teague, and Payton Pritchard and Tremont Waters,” Ainge said. “We believe in all those guys.
“This is an opportunity league, and there’s nothing I like more than when guys who don’t get a chance to play get a chance to step up and play.”
Also Tuesday, the Celtics announced that second-year wing Romeo Langford’s recovery is going according to schedule after Sept. 22 surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right wrist. He was expected to be sidelined 4-5 months.
The team said that center Tristan Thompson suffered a minor hamstring strain during a recent workout and will be limited at the start of training camp.
And center Daniel Theis said he has been fully cleared to play after undergoing a knee maintenance procedure to remove loose bodies.
“Nothing compared to my meniscus surgery years ago,” he said. “But everything is fine. I’ve got no limitations, I’ve got no restrictions on the court, so can’t wait for Friday when we finally start practices.”
Theis said he did not have issues with the knee during the playoffs, but that he experienced some pain when he tried to straighten his leg.