Boston Celtics guard Kemba Walker admitted he is "pretty frustrated" to still be dealing with a left knee issue four months after the season was suspended March 11, but he said he remains optimistic it will improve in time for the playoffs.
"It's definitely pretty frustrating, just because I'm not a guy who misses many games, especially throughout the course of my career," Walker said after practicing with the Celtics on Thursday night in Florida. "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.
"So, yeah, I'm fine. And I'll be back better than ever, I think."
Walker's status has been a topic of discussion since the Celtics started practice inside the NBA bubble at Walt Disney World Resort last week. At the time, coach Brad Stevens said Walker felt "discomfort" in his knee during individual workouts in Boston before flying to Orlando, Florida, with the team.
When asked to describe it, Walker said he felt pain in the knee, which bothered him for an extended period in February and March before the shutdown -- particularly after he logged heavy minutes in the NBA All-Star Game in Chicago.
In the four games Walker played after the All-Star break and before the shutdown, he shot 18-for-59 (30.7 percent) from the floor and just 9-for-36 (25%) from 3-point range.
"It was definitely a pain," he said of the knee. "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.
"Like I said, this is not normal for me, being out like this, but the smart way to go about things because I want to be at my best for my teammates and this organization when the regular season comes around and most definitely in the playoffs."
Walker, who turned 30 in May and has averaged 21.2 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.9 assists in his first season in Boston, told the media July 1 that the time off "definitely helped me get back to myself and start to feel comfortable on my knee."
He didn't practice Sunday or Monday, worked out Tuesday and then didn't practice Wednesday before taking part in portions of Boston's practice Thursday.
Stevens said last week that Walker would be slowly ramped up over next few weeks and will be on a minutes-restriction plan for the eight seeding games in order to be ready for the playoffs next month.
"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."
As Walker was dealing with knee issues in the weeks before the season shut down, it coincided with teammate Jayson Tatum's ascension toward stardom. Walker said he was frustrated that he couldn't play to his normal standard back then, but he is excited about what the Celtics can achieve with both players in the playoffs.
"I think we can be pretty tough, for sure," Walker said. "Since he's been killing it the way he's been, I haven't really been able to help out like I really wanted to, so yeah, I'm definitely looking forward to coming back and making an impact on my teammates and just being readier than I was before the season ended."