The Celtics kicked off their third day of practice in the Orlando bubble on Sunday afternoon, but as the team ramped up 5-on-5 work, Kemba Walker watched from the sidelines, receiving a planned day of rest according to Brad Stevens.
“Kemba didn’t practice, everybody else did,” Stevens said on a Zoom press conference on Sunday. “Kemba is just still in a progression that we’re putting him through. But we went really hard today. First two practices where, we didn’t get out of quarantine in time to use our whole slot the first day and then yesterday was such a quick turnaround with the 9 a.m. slot.”
Despite Walker’s absence, the Celtics came out of the session at full health and with some positive reviews for where the team is at after such a long layoff.
“Today we had a better ability to go hard, so we went hard today,” Stevens noted. “Guys really got after it. It was moments of really good basketball but really tremendous effort all day. We got to build back into the good basketball part. You want to have a base and a foundation of how hard you’re going to play and how hard you’re going to go after it. And they really did that. So it was a good first hard practice and we’ll follow it up with another one tomorrow and then we’ll have a day off after that.”
The Celtics still are 12 days away from their first scrimmage in Orlando so there is plenty of time still for Walker to get into shape. However, this development just three days into summer camp is a sign just how seriously the C’s are about protecting Walker. Given how many setbacks he had during the second half of the season with the knee, it’s likely the smart call.
Without Walker in the fold at point guard and other veterans likely getting some extra rest here and there to start, Stevens has turned to the team’s extensive class of rookies for more court time. The early returns have been promising over the first few days.
“We have kept all of our young guys on one group for the most part the last couple of days, Stevens explained. “So Tremont, Carsen, Grant, Romeo, those guys have all played, and played a ton of minutes, when we’ve gone live and that’s kinda been by design. And they’ve all had some really good moments.
“Carsen was terrific Day 1. Romeo’s had continuously had good moments. And Tremont’s been Tremont; he can make you look bad if you’re not focused in that moment, he’s pretty special at that. All those guys are being guarded by some of our best players and defenders on every possession so it’s great for them now and it looks they’ve made good strides and what better way to figure that out then being guarded by Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum on every possession.”
There will be a good amount of opportunity for 1-2 of these guys to stand up and potentially earn a rotation role during the seeding games with rest likely for some members of the roster (Kemba Walker, Gordon Hayward). A brief training camp limits their window to make an impression but the fact that so many names have been singled out already by Stevens is a promising sign.
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