Bottom line: Expect return to form and full availability during this playoff run. Long-term future of his knee is concerning.
Kemba Walker’s knee could determine the outcome of the Eastern Conference Championship. Despite having months to rest, he started feeling pain when he rejoined the team this month. Kemba had lubricating fluid injected into it in February, and has been intermittently resting during the second half of this season. He’s also had multiple prior surgeries on this knee to treat a torn meniscus, or shock absorber, that’s probably not as protective now as it was before injury.
So what should we expect out of him now? Working in his favor is that he says he feels good, he’s coming off of rest, and he’s been able to participate in practices.
For these playoffs, we’ll probably see his minutes managed when games and series are in hand. Not worth increasing his risk of missing high-stakes game-time since the Celtics are in position to make a deep run. But we don’t expect him to be unavailable when the team needs him this year.
For the long-term, it is cause for concern. His story suggests degenerative changes in his knee that don’t really reverse themselves, and data in NBA players who have undergone similar surgeries tells us that they participate in fewer games in the long-term. We hope we’re wrong, because he’s impressively clutch, but it’s not looking great.
Image Source: Keith Allison, CC-BY-SA-2.0