Celtics

Karalis: Robert Williams molding his freakish gifts into basketball skills

Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images

The Boston Celtics just can't help themselves once Robert Williams gets into the game.

His first basket in his last eight games have all been dunks, but six of them have been alley-oops. That includes the Tuesday night win over the Clippers.

"It’s the best part about it, to be honest. I love it," Kemba Walker said with his eyes squinting because of the obvious smile obscured by his mask. "Being able to put the ball anywhere and Rob is going to get it."

Teammates love lofting the ball up towards the rim and watching Williams glide through the air and finish. Some might get a little too carried away, treating each Williams roll to the basket like a kid playing with a new Christmas toy.

"I would really say it's (Jaylen Brown)," Williams said when asked if his teammates get a little carried away. "He's the only one that throws the ball any which way."

Williams still manages to get them, and they're almost always as ridiculously fun to watch as they must be to throw. But they're not just amazing highlights.

Williams' rolling to the rim is forcing defenses to start picking their poison between the player with the ball and the freak of nature who can pick it off the top of the backboard. All too often, defenders are holding out as long as they can before reacting to the ballhandler, only to watch the ball float over their heads. By forcing defenders to choose him or the ball, he's giving the ball handler more time to get closer to the basket, suck in the defense, and decide which of the emerging options are the best.

Even when they play it right, like Ivica Zubac sort of did here, Williams still makes them pay.

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"Rob’s development since he’s gotten here has been pretty damn good," Jaylen Brown said. "He’s really carved out a great role not just on this team but in this league, and as he’s gotten more consistent minutes, we can see his play continue to emerge."

Williams' NBA road has been a tough one. He missed out on a lot of development time in his rookie year because injuries to Aaron Baynes and Al Horford forced the Celtics to keep him in Boston rather than on the Maine Red Claws as an emergency backup. He then missed significant time last season with a hip injury, giving him precious few reps on the floor to work through his shortcomings.

The signing of Tristan Thompson seemed to foreshadow another tough year for Williams, but the third-year big just keeps pushing his way into the lineup.

"He’s got a lot of experience under his belt," Stevens said. "Maybe not as much game minutes over the last three years, but I’ve said before that you can’t underscore and under-sell the development of being around Baynes and Horford that first year. They gave him a great foundation."

That foundation is paying off this season. Stevens has been using