BOSTON -- Like most rookies, there was a moment or two in Robert Williams III’s first NBA game on Friday against someone other than his teammates when he had to catch himself doing a little too much star-gazing.
“You can’t be amazed the whole game,” Williams said. “I had to put that to the side. I saw a couple nice moves by Kemba [Walker], but I want to block that [expletive]. That’s the mentality I’m supposed to have.”
And with the Celtics facing the Charlotte Hornets again tonight, Williams will surely learn from that first meeting on Friday when he tallied three points along with two rebounds and two steals in just under 10 minutes of court time.
Williams III acknowledged he was very anxious to get on the floor Friday night.
“You always got the jitters,” he said. “You always have those feelings. But my teammates took care of me. They welcomed me back, let me know we have a job to do. You can’t be anxious for too long on the court. We have games to play.”
But how much will he play in those games, remains a mystery.
Selected with the 27th overall pick in last June’s NBA draft, Boston has the kind of frontcourt depth that makes it highly unlikely we’ll see much of Williams this season.
Al Horford and Aron Baynes are Boston’s primary big men, both of whom are ahead of Williams in the playing pecking order. The same holds true for second-year big man Daniel Theis and Guerschon Yabusele, who are also standing between Williams and playing time.
Throw in the fact that he has tendinitis that the Celtics are aggressively attacking to best ensure Williams’ long-term health, and, well, what you see in the preseason from Williams may very well be the most you’ll see him competing against NBA competition in the near future.
“We’re moving slow with Robert because we can,” said Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations. “[When] we drafted Terry [Rozier] he had some tendinitis issues in his knees. Our medical staff has done an amazing job. He’s missed zero practices and zero games. We’re trying to do the same thing with Robert. He’s had some tendinitis issues. We want to really get those right. He played throughout his college career with much more pain than he has now. So, he’s making great strides already. But we like to make sure it’s long-lasting and develops the strength. That’s going to be a priority for us, his health. Once we get him really healthy, we’ll get him as much experience as we can either here or in Portland.”
Williams is quick to credit the Celtics’ medical staff with helping perform more pain-free than he did in college.
“I’m feeling like I’m in a good place,” Williams III said. “The staff has done an amazing job, day and night. I feel like I’m in a great place right now. I feel they have taken their time with me, which has blessed me to be able to get back to this point. Taking it step by step and hopefully getting better.”
Williams’ progress, both in terms of his health and overall body of work basketball-wise, has been noticeably better and more consistent as training camp has progressed.
“We’re all here with a point to prove,” Williams III said. “Not only to them but to the world. You have a lot of haters; it’s motivation. I just have to grind hard for my teammates, if for anybody else. They’re counting on me just as well as I’m counting on them.”