The NBA calendar looks nothing like what we’re used to after a four-month pause courtesy of the global coronavirus pandemic.
This once-in-a-lifetime new look to the season has created a new class of NBA players — experienced rookies.
“If you ask any of the guys on the team, I’m still a rookie,” said Williams.
Maybe so, but Williams and most of his fellow first-year players are unlike any rookie class the league has seen before.
Download the MyTeams app for the latest Celtics news and analysis
The extended time away from the game due to the pandemic afforded them what amounts to an in-season offseason.
And while this holds true for veterans as well, vets have the luxury of how to make the most of their downtime because they’ve been there and done that before. For rookies like Williams, the stoppage of play was in many respects their first offseason, making the reboot to the season more like season No. 2 for them.
That time away did more than provide youngsters like Williams a chance to heal up some of the many bumps and bruises that reminded them on a daily basis that this ain’t college!
But the time off also afforded them the benefit of perspective; that is, to see where they are at and what they must do to get better with the knowledge that an opportunity to put all that together in a meaningful, purposeful way would be coming soon.
It’s clear that Williams has used the downtime to prepare to be an impactful player for the Celtics, void of the concerns, uncertainty and nervousness that he was feeling at the start of the season.
While he was a two-time SEC Player of the Year, Williams entered the NBA as a late first-round pick whose impact in both the short and long-term for Boston was unclear. But as the season wore on and he continued to see playing time, Williams admits it built up a much greater level of comfort for him heading into the restart to the season at the end of this month.
“During the year you get more accustomed and realize you belong here,” Williams said. “For me it’s more confidence, more able to do a lot of better things on the court.”
And while the Celtics are among the top teams in the East this season, their success in making a deep playoff run will hinge to some degree on how many low-key X-factors step up and contribute — players like Williams, who saw more playing time as a rookie than any of Boston’s other first-year players.
Williams appeared in 62 games (5 starts) while averaging 3.5 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.0 assists in 15.6 minutes per game. In his five starts (Boston went 4-1 in those games), he averaged 5.2 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists.