Practice down, games ahead.
Charlotte Hornets point guard Kemba Walker went through his first real test since knee surgery, fully participating in Saturday’s practice. Although it wasn’t a particularly long or physical session (for reasons not pertaining to Walker), it went well by all description.
“He looked good moving – running, planting, his pace,” coach Steve Clifford said before the team flew to Detroit for Sunday’s road game against the Pistons.
It has been about six weeks since Walker went to New York City for surgery to repair a meniscus in is left knee.
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This is the first significant injury of Walker’s career. He has missed the last 16 games and is scheduled to miss at least the next two – Sunday in Auburn Hills, Mich., and Monday at home against the Washington Wizards.
After that, it’s about how Walker feels and when head athletic trainer Steve Stricker signs off on Walker’s return. It could be as early as Wednesday at home against the Sacramento Kings but more likely Friday against the Chicago Bulls.
“If it were up to me I’d play tomorrow. It’s really up to him.” Walker said of Clifford having the final say.
Despite that seeming bravado, Walker is being careful and patient about his recovery. He has been a model patient and as soon as practice concluded Saturday he hopped into the cold tub at Time Warner Cable Arena to try to head off any inflammation.
After that chilly bath, he spoke with the Observer about his return.
“We didn’t do much, but I did better than I expected, really. Jumping, doing pull-up (jump shots), all of it,” Walker said.
“I’m trying to be as comfortable as possible. I don’t want to make this into a mental thing. When I’m out there I don’t want to be thinking about anything. They fixed it, and I want to view this as repaired.”
Walker has been so durable throughout his college and NBA careers that coping with post-surgery recovery is a new thing. It’s about listening to your body without listening too much, he suggested.
“I don’t want this on my mind. I just want to get back,” Walker said.
“I’ve never suffered an injury that would keep me out this long. So (coming back) is new to me. But I know a lot of people who have gone through this surgery, so I feel like I understand what needs to be done. I want to be comfortable, and I am.
Walker said he feels the occasional twinge from his knee, but nothing of concern.
“I get sore but that’s natural,” he said. “Nothing I can’t manage, nothing that is killing me. I’m fine,”
The next reading is how he feels Sunday after practicing.
“I guess now it’s, ‘Will he be sore?’” Clifford said. “I think he’s thinking Wednesday, but I’m thinking Friday is more” likely.
“But all that is really up to how he feels and what Strick thinks.”
The Hornets didn’t’ scrimmage at practice Saturday. They are in such a busy stretch of games (five in seven nights) that Clifford is concerned with saving the players’ legs for the games.
For instance, they won’t bus to the Palace on Sunday morning for a full-blown shootaround because it’s a 6 p.m. tip-off and the change to Daylight Savings Time costs an hour overnight.
Instead they will meet at the team hotel for a film session and walkthrough to discuss the Pistons.
“You can’t practice much,” Clifford said of a busy March. “Everything is non-contact, and it’s a lot of film.”
Bonnell: 704-358-5129; Twitter: @rick_bonnell