BRIGHTON -- There were questions about Robert Williams' maturity entering the NBA Draft, questions which, as time passes, look to have been the biggest factor in his anvil-like plummet on draft night into the lap of the Celtics with the 27th overall pick.
Williams, speaking today to the media for the first time since being absent for the Celtics' Summer League team’s first practice because he missed his flight, seems to understand that the perception of him -- even before this most recent incident -- wasn't good.
“People already have a bad image of me,” said Williams, who made it to the Celts' second Summer League practice today. “Missing my flight didn’t help that at all.”
Since missing the flight, Williams has had multiple conversations with the coaching staff and front-office personnel. They all stress the importance of understanding that this is a business and there's a need to be more professional.
Williams sounds as though the message is being received, though understanding what he needs to do and actually doing it are two different things.
It’s too soon to say whether Williams will use this as a teachable moment and avoid such instances going forward.
But one thing that’s not in question is his ability to play, and how his skills give the Celtics a dynamic they haven't had in Brad Stevens' five years as coach.
Celtics assistant Jay Larranaga is the team’s Summer League head coach. I asked him about his early impressions of Williams.
“He dunks with his elbows,” quipped Larranaga, a not-so-veiled reference to Williams’ above-average athleticism and ability to play well above the rim. “He’s been really good, really focused; picked up the points of emphasis we had in practice really well, seems very coachable. This is the beginning of a process for him and our whole Summer League team.”
But this process is different for Williams, a player many see as having lottery (top-14) talent but who, because of concerns about his maturity, slipped further down the draft board than most anticipated.
As Williams mentioned, missing his flight over the weekend -- along with being late to his introductory conference call with the media because he overslept on the morning after the draft -- only reinforces the negative image many have about him.
This latest incident, he says, is the wake-up call that he needed.
“I talked to Coach Stevens when I got back,” Williams said. “He obviously explained to me about the opportunities; it’s not that many. It’s definitely a wake-up call.”