The Boston Celtics dropped to 13-13 with a loss to the lowly Washington Wizards on Sunday, raising new questions about the team and its issues.
The Celtics lost 104-91 to the Wizards, who entered Sunday with the Eastern Conference’s worst record. Even worse, Boston trailed by roughly 20 points for much of the second half, struggling to make shots and occasionally showing frustration and getting back late on defense.
After the game, Kemba Walker seemed to suggest that the team simply was not playing hard enough.
“[We] just need to play harder,” Walker said, via Tim Bontemps of ESPN. “That’s it. We’re not playing hard. We’re not playing as hard as we know we can.
“When you play hard, great things happen. And right now, it just hasn’t been consistent, our play. So like I said, we’re going to continue to watch film and learn from our mistakes and get better.”
It’s not what you want to hear from one of your leaders at this stage of the season. The Celtics have lost seven of ten games, including back-to-back defeats against the Pistons and Wizards, the two worst teams in the East. They’ve popped up in trade rumors as they try to address their lack of depth on the wing, but the problems seem to run deeper than that right now.
The Boston Celtics surprised a lot of people when they signed Kemba Walker to a massive contract last offseason. The goal for Danny Ainge was to build a championship core around Walker, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, and the GM was apparently willing to abandon that plan after just one year.
Zach Harper of The Athletic said on “The Ringer NBA Show” podcast this week that Ainge tried to trade Walker for a top-10 pick before the draft last month. His intention was to use the pick to acquire Jrue Holiday from the New Orleans Pelicans.
Ainge reportedly tried to trade Walker to the Chicago Bulls for the fourth overall pick and Cleveland Cavaliers for the fifth overall pick. When the Milwaukee Bucks offered multiple first-round picks for Holiday, the Celtics were no longer interested.
What is perhaps more interesting is that Harper believes the upcoming season is a “make-or-break year” for Ainge in terms of how players around the NBA view him. The pattern the Celtics are following with Walker, who played through a knee injury last season, is similar to what happened with Isaiah Thomas, who returned too soon from a hip injury before Boston traded him.
“That kind of soured a lot of players on the Celtics,” Harper said. “I think Anthony Davis just wanted to be a Laker and there’s a whole Rich Paul connection, but I also think that was a factor … I don’t think it was a major factor but it was a significant factor on some level of, ‘Maybe I don’t want to be a Celtic.’
“I think if Danny Ainge doesn’t handle this Kemba injury properly in terms of getting him back on the court, if they rush him back and something bad happens to Kemba, I think players are really going to look at this Celtics franchise sideways.”
Walker received a stem cell injection in his knee this offseason and is going to be out until at least January. The news of the Celtics trying to trade him comes on the heels of another star player deciding he wanted out of Boston.
The Celtics have never been considered a top destination for star players in Ainge’s tenure with the team, which is why he has had to get creative with acquiring players like Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. If players become skeptical of how the team handles injuries, that could make life even more difficult on Ainge.
Kemba Walker’s first playoff run with the Boston Celtics was not as successful as he would have liked, and his general manager knows it.
GM Danny Ainge said it was clear that Walker was physically not right toward the end of the Celtics’ playoff run.
“I wasn’t there [in the bubble],” Ainge said, via Tim Bontemps of ESPN. “I was watching from here, but I could see, even when he was here before the bubble started — which is why he was shut down a little bit and doing strength training and trying to prepare himself for the playoff run and the intensity of the playoff run — but he was definitely not himself.
“In fairness to Kemba, he doesn’t want to say that. He doesn’t say that to our coaches. He doesn’t say that to you, the media. He doesn’t say that to me. I haven’t heard one excuse from him. But watching the games, even the games we won, even the games where he played well, I could tell he wasn’t the same physically as he was in October, November, December. So we’re going to try to get that Kemba back.”
Walker was bothered by a knee injury for most of the second half of the season, and it got pretty significant in February before the league shut down. He looked better in the first round of the playoffs, but appeared to tweak the injury against Toronto. He averaged 19.7 points per game in Boston’s series loss to Miami, but shot only 42.6 percent from the floor.
Emotions boiled over for the Boston Celtics following their collapse against the Miami Heat on Thursday night, but head coach Brad Stevens is doing what he can to get the team focused for Game 3.
Marcus Smart was heard by several reporters “screaming” at teammates after the Celtics blew a 17-point lead in Game 2. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Stevens met with Smart and Celtics leaders Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown late Thursday night in an attempt to clear the air.
The Celtics choked away a 17-point lead in Game 2 after blowing a 14-point lead in Game 1, so you can understand why tensions were high. Smart is the emotional leader of the team, and he and Jaylen Brown reportedly needed to be separated in the locker room.
If the Celtics can harness their anger in Game 3, they still have a chance in the series. The ugly locker room scene shows how much they care about winning.
Kemba Walker downplayed talk about the Boston Celtics having a heated locker room after their Game 2 loss to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals on Thursday.
The Celtics blew a 13-point halftime lead and lost 106-101. They were up by five points late and were unable to finish.
After the game, multiple reporters said Marcus Smart was yelling in the locker room and that objects were thrown.
Walker, who had a team-high 23 points, said the postgame issues were “nothing.”
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens and forward Jayson Tatum both chalked things up to natural reactions to a tough loss.
That type of reaction is to be expected, but there has to be concern about bad feelings lingering from Smart’s callout.
Boston is now in a 0-2 hole to the Heat in the series. Game 3 will be on Saturday, so there will not be much time for the Celtics to turn things around. They will have to do so against a hot Heat team that has gone 10-1 in the playoffs this year. Falling behind 0-3 in the series would put them in a spot they might not be able to overcome.
The Boston Celtics had very little to curse about during their easy win over the Toronto Raptors on Sunday, but Kemba Walker was still shown dropping a four-letting word on live television. To his credit, the star point guard felt badly about it.
With the Celtics leading 107-88 late in their Game 1 win, cameras captured Walker appearing to tell someone on the bench to “get the f— outta here.” Kemba immediately realized he was being shown on ESPN, at which point he covered his mouth and said “oops.”
It happens, Kemba.
Walker had 18 points and 10 assists in Boston’s convincing win. He was 4-of-7 from three-point range.
The Celtics have been managing Walker’s knee injury, and he expressed frustration with the way the team was handling it last month. He played 32 minutes on Sunday and appeared to be limping at one point, but the results were all positive.
The Boston Celtics are working hard to manage Kemba Walker’s health in the Orlando bubble, but the All-Star guard is not having an easy time with the imposed restrictions.
Speaking with the media on Tuesday, Walker discussed his minutes limit, which the Celtics are implementing to safeguard his troublesome left knee.
“It’s frustrating,” said Walker, per Jared Weiss of The Athletic. “This is the first time in my career I’ve ever had to go through this, so it’s tough. But I’ll get there. I know what it’s about … I’m working every single day to get myself prepared to play big minutes in the future.”
Celtics coach Brad Stevens added that Walker’s limit of 14 to 20 minutes per game is set in stone. The 30-year-old sat out two of the team’s scrimmages and played just nine minutes in the third one.
Walker had missed 14 games already this season due to the knee but still managed to post 21.2 points a contest. The Celtics sound confident about their chances of contention now that they are closer to full health, and continuing to manage Walker’s workload will be a part of their strategy.
The Boston Celtics will hope the extended time off will do wonders for Kemba Walker’s left knee, but they’re going to be very careful with him initially.
Walker had been limited due to left knee problems before the shutdown in March, and coach Brad Stevens said Saturday that the guard will likely be subject to a minutes restriction through at least the start of the meaningful seeding games.
The Celtics obviously hope a cautious approach will ensure that Walker is as good as he can be in time for the playoffs. The seeding games can only do so much for Boston, so it would make sense to prioritize.
Walker had really been struggling prior to the shutdown. Though he was averaging 16.8 points per game, he shot just 31.7 percent from the field in the last eight games he’d played in. The rest should do him a world of good.
The NBA and other sports leagues have been trying to come up with ways to deal with the coronavirus outbreak, and one of the ideas being floated by the NBA is to play games in empty arenas. If it comes to that, Kemba Walker would rather not play at all.
Shams Charania of The Athletic reported on Friday that the NBA has informed teams it may become necessary to play games in front of only “essential staff” and not allow fans to attend. Walker doesn’t like the idea, but he understands the seriousness of the situation.
“That would be terrible,” Walker said, via Tom Westerholm of MLive.com. “That would be boring. They might as well cancel the whole game before that. That would suck. But at the end of the day, it is getting serious. I don’t know. It would be very weird though for sure.”
The NBA wants to avoid having to postpone or cancel any games, so playing games without fans may be the only way to carry on with the season if the outbreak continues to worsen. That would obviously be incredibly strange for players, and no one wants it to come to that.
We’ve already seen players break out special handshakes in response to the info the NBA has shared about the coronavirus. The reality is this is a unique situation that is is forcing sports leagues and other organizations to adapt by the day. We may eventually see something unprecedented like a meaningful game in front of 15,000 empty seats.
The Boston Celtics will return to action from the All-Star Break on Friday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves, but they will be without Kemba Walker for that game and potentially beyond.
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens told reporters on Friday that Walker experienced some swelling in his knee after the All-Star Game and needed to have it drained. Walker’s knee has bothered him at various points throughout the season, and Stevens said the star point guard would not have played in the All-Star Game had he known this could potentially happen.
Stevens would not rule out Walker returning for Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers, and he said he does not expect the injury to be a long-term concern. However, the Celtics undoubtedly wish Walker had taken the All-Star Break off now in hindsight.
Walker, who played in all 82 games for the Charlotte Hornets last year, has missed eight games this season. He downplayed his knee trouble a few weeks ago and said it was the basic wear and tear from playing a lot of basketball, but it will certainly be something for Boston to monitor going forward.
Walker is averaging 21.8 points, 5.0 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game in his first season with the Celtics. He’s an intense competitor who never wants to leave the floor, but keeping him healthy for the postseason will be a priority for Boston.