Part of the reason the NBA chose to have each team play a handful of regular-season games before heading into the playoffs was to ensure players had some time to ramp back up to play at a high level. Four months off is a significant amount of time away from basketball, and asking these athletes to jump right into the postseason would've been unreasonable for several reasons. The main concern from the players' perspective was avoiding injuries, and we've already seen several players opt out because of that reason. However, the eight "seeding" games teams will be playing will act as a mini preseason to prepare for the playoffs, and to ease guys who were coming off injuries back into action.
That's exactly what the Boston Celtics are hoping the seeding games provide their All-Star point guard, Kemba Walker. Celtics coach Brad Stevens said last week while talking to reporters that Walker will be on a minutes restriction during all eight of Boston's seeding games, in order to slowly bring him back in time for the playoffs. Walker, who has been dealing with a left knee issue since the All-Star break, said that while he's not concerned about his knee, the fact that he hasn't fully recovered is frustrating.
"It's definitely pretty frustrating, just because I'm not a guy who misses many games, especially throughout the course of my career," Walker told reporters on Thursday. "I'm not really concerned much, honestly, because I'm trending upwards and I'm getting better and I'm getting closer to a return."
Before Boston flew to Orlando to begin preparing for the NBA restart, Stevens said Walker felt "discomfort" in his knee during individual workouts. Since arriving at Disney World, the Celtics have been cautious with him, as the four-time All-Star has sat out several practices to rest his knee.
The knee issue Walker's been dealing with originally occurred in February, specifically after the NBA All-Star Game, where the guard said he started to feel pain. The injury subsequently led him to only playing in four games after the break, missing a total of six games before the season was postponed.
"It was definitely a pain," Walker said. "I can't really explain it, but it was a pain on the side of my knee that was bothering me. I don't know how much else I can say. Throughout my career, I haven't missed many games, and I've been able to play through a lot. It was bothering me, so that was the best choice for me to make, was to sit out."
In the four games Walker did play in, he struggled mightily on offense, shooting just 30.5 percent from the field and a discouraging 25 percent from 3-point range. During those four games, Boston went 1-3, as Walker was trying to work his way back into the rotation. The hope for Boston is to have Walker back to 100 percent before the playoffs start next month, and while he's still dealing with lingering issues with his knee, he's not concerned it will keep him out of the postseason.
"The plan is not to [be on a minutes limit by the time the playoffs start]," Walker said. "But I'm feeling good. I'm really just taking it one day at a time right now, just being smart, being cautious for the most part. I'm feeling really good, so we're just taking it slowly."