Monday was the first time an injury forced Charlotte Bobcats point guard Kemba Walker to miss a basketball game.
“I never missed a game in my life. First time,” Walker said of the left ankle sprain that will cost him about two weeks of the season.
Growing up in New York City, then on to Connecticut for college and Charlotte for the NBA, Walker has always prided himself on physical toughness, sometimes to his own detriment. Coach Steve Clifford thought maybe Walker should have missed a game or two after injuring his shoulder earlier this season.
Walker wouldn’t hear of it.
He went 190 NBA games before an injury was severe enough to sit him down. Walker rolled his ankle in Saturday’s loss to the Miami Heat. A replay of the play showed the ball of his joint nearly touching the floor before he fell along the baseline.
This toughness thing isn’t about being macho. Walker derived it from his parents, people of Caribbean descent who taught him to suck it up and make a living.
“My parents were at work sick, when they didn’t feel like it – through rain, sleet and snow,” Walker recalled. “I get my toughness from them. If I can play, I’m going to play. I probably would have played on this ankle, but I just couldn’t. I definitely pride myself on my toughness.”
That makes this an odd experience: For once Walker has to sit back and watch others do his job. He’s proud of the way Ramon Sessions has stepped into the starter’s role and how third point guard Jannero Pargo is contributing.
In Monday’s victory over the Toronto Raptors, Sessions had 23 points. In Wednesday’s win over the Los Angeles Clippers, Sessions had a season-high eight assists. Pargo scored 11 points in each of those games.
Walker said he’s pleased, but not surprised, how well those two have stepped in for him.
“Ramon is playing really well as a starter, both getting guys involved and scoring baskets,” Walker said. “Jannero is just the consummate pro – always ready. I knew it wasn’t going to be a big deal for him because he works so hard.”
Based on the pain he immediately felt when he turned his ankle, Walker feared far worse than what became the diagnosis. Teammates Bismack Biyombo and Jeff Adrien had to carry him off the court because it was impossible for him to put any weight on his left foot.
So it seemed a bit of a surprise Thursday that Walker showed up for an interview without crutches, walking with no apparent limp. He indicated he’s been rehabbing with the same intensity he usually devotes to basketball.
“I felt the pain instantly. Usually when things like that happen to me I’m able to get right back up. With that I knew I wouldn’t be able to get back up,” Walker said.
“Ten to 14 days? That’s definitely better than what I expected.”