Kemba Walker is set to start in the NBA All Star Game, his first as a member of the Boston Celtics. One of his biggest draws when he came to Boston was his durability. In Charlotte Walker, who was the focal point of the team as the years went on, only missed 15 out of a possible 640 games. In today’s NBA that’s an ironman-like total. After signing onto play with the C’s, Walker has already missed seven games after the game with Atlanta.
Some might say “Where’s the max contract guy?” or “Where’s Mr. Durable?” and expect the Celtics to be 0 for in games he doesn’t play in. During Kemba’s brief absences, Boston is 5-2. Before the Celtics game on Saturday night, Head Coach Brad Stevens said that his starting point guard’s knee flared up during a win against Golden State. Although Stevens said it’s not a “long, long term thing”, knee injuries to point guards are worrisome.
If I’m the Head Coach of the Celtics (dream job) I would consider giving Kemba certain nights off. He’s already averaging the fewest minutes per game since his rookie season in 2011-12 (27.2), but what’s the harm in this NBA to give him some load management nights like the other top players?
The Celtics have five back to backs left in their remaining games for the regular season, and it would be impossible to think that Kemba would play in all those games with hopes of bringing the Celtics to at least the conference finals. Unlike in Charlotte, Boston has depth at the point guard spot. So in the case of a night or two off, Marcus Smart and Brad Wanamaker can slide into the starting role plus the relative success of rookies Tremont Waters and Carson Edwards.
This is something that may come into play in the future for the other key contributors for the Celtics, i.e. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. The top three players for the Celtics hold so much in regards to the financial future of the team, with Brown signing a $115 million extension and Walker signing a max contract worth $141 million. Plus Tatum’s contract will be up soon.
We can start all the Kyrie-Kemba comparisons we want, but anyone can see this is a team that enjoys taking the floor together and actually meshes when healthy, but that’s the key word. Brad Stevens has done a good job throughout the season getting players to fit into different roles. And to protect his max contract point guard it might be wise to hold Walker out for a few games. Of the Celtics remaining games, about half of them are against teams over .500, which means a game or two with Kemba not in action shouldn’t hurt the C’s.
Is it a popular decision? Probably not. But when it comes to Brown, Tatum or maybe more important for the sense of this piece, Kemba, rest is necessary.