The news is in on Bill Walker following the knee injury he suffered in training camp on Wednesday, and it is not good. Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe is reporting that Bill Walker has suffered a torn meniscus on his right knee and will be out 6-8 weeks.
Terrible news right out of camp for the promising 2nd year player from Kansas State. I spoke with him on media day Monday and out of everyone I talked to, he seemed the most genuinely giddy to get back out on the floor. In fact, all he wanted to talk about was how much he had improved on his defense over the summer. It’s clear he had figured how what had prevented him from getting on the floor for most of last season.
Now that Walker is out of the picture for the next two months, it creates a somewhat muddled situation at the bottom of the roster, opening up some potential minutes that may have gone to Walker out of the gate. Let’s take a look at a few questions and try to sort out the situation.
The Celtics have 16 players in camp right now, including Mike Sweetney. Any chance this injury causes Bill Walker to get cut?
Highly unlikely. There is little to no chance that Mike Sweetney, the team’s 16th player in camp would make the team under any circumstances, given how stacked this team is in the front court with Rasheed Wallace, Glen Davis, Shelden Williams and Brian Scalabrine making up backup big men. Barring major injury to one of those guys, Sweetney and/or Lester Hudson will in all likelihood be the ones to go.
The C’s have some depth, albeit questionable depth at that at the 3 spot with Marquis Daniels, Tony Allen and potentially J.R. Giddens capable of spending some time at the position backing up The Captain. Before he went down, Walker was likely the first in line to scoop up some of those minutes, if Daniels spent time at the point. Once he comes back, the team will surely give him a chance to earn some of that PT. For now though, it creates some opportunity for the other guys in line, which brings me to my next question.
Who on the roster stands to benefit the most from Walker’s injury?
The clear winner here is Tony Allen, with J.R. Giddens coming in a close second. Allen has been written off by most Celtics fans, myself included after his struggles and repeated injuries last year. The coaching staff appeared to write him off too during last season’s playoffs. Danny unsuccessfully tried to shop him around over the summer and now the team is left with TA back on the roster with little/no expectations and a replacement found in the form of Marquis Daniels.
Allen himself is recovering from offseason ankle injury, which probably helps explain why Danny couldn’t even give him away this summer. He has practiced this week after sitting out a day to start camp. How this whole scenario will play out, is far from certain given Allen’s track record but Walker was likely to be Allen’s main competitor for minutes at the 2/3 as the 10th man off the bench.
The other wildcard here is J.R. Giddens who is buried even further down the depth chart than TA. Giddens played 6 games last year, never seeming to gain any kind of faith from the team after sitting out of the team’s mini camp last summer. The 6’5” Giddens comes into this year with a likely fresh start, and new perspective hopefully after spending most of the past season in the NBDL. He was also going to be fighting for minutes at the backup swingman and with Walker hurt, his chances of gaining some attention, if not a spot on the active roster, improve considerably.
Now the Celtics are not going to just give Allen and/or Giddens minutes, just for the sake of working them in. The team could easily go the first month or two, with a nine man rotation with Ray Allen or Paul Pierce alternating time with the bench unit on the floor.
One of the main focus of this team’s offseason however was to reduce Paul’s and Ray’s minutes for this upcoming season and limit their wear and tear for the stretch run. Giving this reality, it remains probable that the team will give both Allen and Giddens a legitimate chance to earn some time on the floor. Those are the guys off the bench I’ll be watching closely this preseason.
Could this affect any other players? Would the team consider bringing someone else in?
Absoutely. Lester Hudson is signed and in camp. While he is far from a certainty to make the team, an opportunity could present itself, if Doc decides to play Marquis some at the backup 3 and gives Lester some run at the point with the bench unit. Like Allen and Giddens, Hudson will have to earn any time but the chances of that happening are a lot better with Walker out of the picture for sometime.
I could also see Brian Scalabrine getting a few minutes at the backup 3, in select situations against larger less athletic forwards. The crowded and talented frontcourt will make it tough for Doc to find minutes for Scal there, so inserting him at the 3 to help the team stretch the floor could be a possibility.
The team could also consider bringing in another player, a guard or small forward to compete for a roster spot and some minutes without Walker. Ainge did not rule out this possibility on Monday and a guy like Carlos Arroyo could push Daniels to primarily backup Paul and Ray at the 2/3 spot off the bench.
Overall, I think a lot of the effect of this injury will come down to what exactly the team’s plans are for Marquis Daniels. If they plan on using him a lot at the point, than Walker’s injury is significant since it opens up a lot of minutes. If they were going to use Daniels primarily to backup Paul anyway, than Walker’s injury is less damaging. I personally think it will be somewhere in between, but we won’t know for sure until Doc trots out some lineups during the preseason.
For now though, the door is wide open for a lot of players buried at the bottom of the roster to make their mark in training camp. It will be interesting to see who steps up and makes the most of this potential opportunity to join the rotation.
What say you Celtics fans? How will Doc manage the roster? Who, if anyone on the roster will step up from the bottom of the depth chart and turn some heads in training camp while potentially earning some minutes?