PHILADELPHIA — Celtics coach Brad Stevens said that point guard Kemba Walker’s minutes restriction will be raised to about 25-28 for Friday’s game against the 76ers. Walker, who missed the first 11 games of the season as he completed a knee-strengthening program, had been limited to about 20 minutes in each of the last two games.
Walker started both the first and second quarters in Wednesday’s loss to the 76ers. But after checking out midway through the second quarter, he did not return until there was just 1:30 left in the third.
Stevens took this approach so Walker would be able to finish the game. But Walker, who scored 17 points in the first half, could never establish a rhythm after his long break, scoring just 2 in the second.
Stevens said figuring out how to divide up playing time in such a situation can become complicated.
“We’ve thought about that for not only minute restrictions, but for years, if you’re going to play guys in spurts like that, is it better to just sit them until the second quarter?” he said. “It’s a very reasonable thought we certainly have discussed.”
Garden lease extended
The Celtics have agreed to a 15-year lease extension that will keep their home games at TD Garden through the 2035-36 season. They have played at the Garden since it opened in 1995, and their most recent 15-year lease was set to expire at the conclusion of the current season.
“I love walking into TD Garden for our games, and for Bruins games and concerts as well,” Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck said in a text message. “It’s the right home for the Celtics, and we hope to welcome our fans back there as soon as possible.”
TD Garden is owned by Delaware North, whose chairman is Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs.
“The Boston Celtics organization has played an integral role in helping create the best in-arena guest experience in North America,” Jacobs said in an email. “We are grateful for their partnership and very much look forward to the next 15 years.”
The Celtics have not played in front of their home fans since last March, when the 2019-20 season was halted because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A big issue
Robert Williams was cleared to return Wednesday after being sidelined for two weeks because of COVID-19, but he did not play. Stevens said Williams was available, though he would have been limited to 8-10 minutes.
But unique rotations could be a larger issue in the short term. The Celtics began the season with Tristan Thompson and Daniel Theis paired in the frontcourt, and Williams primarily working with the second unit. That starting lineup struggled, however, and Theis has come off the bench in the last two games. On Wednesday, he registered 21 points and 10 rebounds and appeared more comfortable playing his more natural center position rather than power forward.
“The way that the game was going, the way that Theis was playing off the bench, it made sense to roll with Theis,” Stevens said. “The double-big lineup was not great; we all knew that. But it was also a way that Robert could maximize his opportunities early while we had Kemba out. So we’ve got to figure out a way to maximize all of those guys.”
Not yet for Tatum
Forward Jayson Tatum, who has been sidelined since testing positive for COVID-19 Jan. 9, completed a workout in Boston Thursday but he has been ruled out for Friday’s game. Tatum is no longer in the NBA’s health and safety protocols, but the team wants to make sure he is in condition to return after a two-week break.
“You’re just trying to balance getting ramped up in a game scenario with the idea of preventing muscular injury,” Stevens said. “It’s more about that than it is anything else, because they haven’t done anything.
“You know, hamstrings and, you know, obviously, we want to be very, very careful as guys come back into play.”