Kemba Walker, who is about as unselfish a scorer as there is in the NBA, admits that maybe it’s time to look for more shots.
The Celtics guard faded into the background after starting strong during Thursday’s loss in Brooklyn — he finished with 11 points after initially scoring nine points on 4-for-5 shooting in the first quarter — and knows how he can change it in Sunday’s game in Houston.
“I think I can hunt shots a little more,” Walker said after Saturday’s practice at the Toyota Center. “I think watching film of some of the games, I think I turned down a few shots, a few opportunities. Spot-ups — I could take some more spot-ups when my guys give me the basketball. So yeah, I think I’ve just got to hunt shots a little more, be a little bit more aggressive.”
Brad Stevens, who has often said it’s on the team to get Walker more involved, is saying the same thing now.
“I think we’ve got to do a better job as a team of helping Kemba,” said the C’s coach. “I think that it’s really important that we put him in a position to have success and play to his strengths, and I think he does a great job. He’s so unselfish, that he will defer, but we need him to be the guy that he can be — scoring, keeping defenses on their heels with actions for him, and secondary actions for him, or when a play breaks down, getting the ball on the second side is really important.”
But the onus is also on Walker to find the balance between deferring to Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, and picking up his own scoring production.
“Yeah, when I’m out there, I’m just trying to get the ball moving, just play at the same level, try to let everybody touch the basketball. So yeah, sometimes it can be a tough balance, especially when other guys really have it going,” Walker said. “We just gotta find a way to be aggressive, to take the shots that I need to take. But it’s all about how the game is going as well, or about how the defense is playing me, playing our other guys. Things just change game-to-game, to be honest.”
Marcus Smart responded well to his first game back from an 18-game, calf-related absence, and went through a full practice on Saturday.
But Stevens is unsure of when Smart can return to a full minutes load. The guard is currently under a 20- to 22-minute restriction, and limited to five-minute stints on the floor.
“It’s whatever the trainers said, whatever Marcus and the trainers, when they come up with their plan of attack minutes-wise,” said the Celtics coach. “As long as it’s limited the way it is, those stints are going to be shorter. The purpose in minutes restriction is, obviously, to make sure that you ramp back up appropriately with muscular injuries, but it’s also because you’re not able to play longer stints because your conditioning is not where it will be when you’re 10-15 games in.
“He felt good, so he did a light workout yesterday when we arrived, practiced today, should be good to continue along this progression.”
Rotation still work in progress
Stevens is still looking for separation among his reserves, which could mean continued variations in his rotations.
“I don’t think anything will be set in stone for a little bit,” said Stevens. “Certainly Smart is coming back into full minutes, and that’s a big part of being able to manage through that. I tried to play him the last game so he would be available (late in the game).
“So yeah, as far as who is going to get the majority of our minutes, with the four guys who have played those minutes, certainly that’s decided. Then it’s a matter of how we rotate those guys to get the most out of them, how to best manage Jayson’s minutes, Kemba’s minutes, Jaylen’s minutes so that we can maintain our best level and who complements those guys now that we’re for the most part back. I have a pretty good idea, but there will be one or two guys who inevitably play more than they have recently as the season goes on, which is the way that works. I’m looking forward to seeing who separates themselves.”