No one wanted to see the NBA season come to a halt in March, but the extra four months of rest likely did a world of good for some players that could have used some extra time to rehab. Robert Williams would be one of the names you could put on that list.
The 6-foot-9 center had been sidelined for 38 games midseason with a hip bone edema. He had played in 45 minutes in four games since returning to action on March 3 but the tight time window in an NBA schedule gave him limited time to practice with teammates ahead of his return.
Now, it’s a level playing field for all involved after a four-month hiatus. Williams has been a full participant in Celtics practice over the past three days and used the extra time off to improve himself and his body.
“I actually feel like I got a little bit quicker, a little bit faster,” Williams said Sunday. “But being out those three and a half months, it gave my body time to heal. I got some good treatment, some good work in, and I’m ready to prove it on the court.”
Staying healthy will be the biggest challenge for Williams in the bubble. He’s missed over 40 games to injury in each season of his NBA career so far, making one of the biggest question marks about him (durability + injury history) in the 2018 NBA Draft rear its head.
The Celtics have not been shy about giving Williams opportunity though when he’s been healthy, particularly this season. The big man is averaging 4.3 points and 4.7 rebounds in 14 minutes per game and even saw crunch-time minutes in key matchups during November in an attempt to add speed and athleticism to the C’s defense.
“I think our defense can go up another level,” Marcus Smart said when Williams is on the floor. “We got somebody back there that can protect the rim. No offense to the other guys on our team, but Rob is a different type of freak of nature when it comes to athleticism, and the ability to go and change shots at the rim. So that allows us to pick up our pressure a little bit more as guards. And really, really, really just give the opposing team problems.”
The problem so far is that Williams, beyond some flashes, has not produced the kind of consistency needed to be trusted as a rotation piece yet in year two. The numbers are actually a little bit concerning on that front (albeit in a limited sample size of 323 minutes). Consider this: