Celtics

Grant Williams part of new class of NBA players in reboot — experienced rookie

Grant Williams part of new class of NBA players in reboot — experienced rookie

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. 

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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.

Is Jaylen Brown the NBA's best shooting guard? Kendrick Perkins makes case

Is Jaylen Brown the NBA's best shooting guard? Kendrick Perkins makes case

Jaylen Brown didn't make the All-Star team this year, and you likely won't find him on a 2020 All-NBA squad.

But if you ask Kendrick Perkins, the voters should re-evaluate their choices.

After Brown dropped 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting and played impressive defense against Raptors star Pascal Siakam in the Boston Celtics' 122-100 dismantling of Toronto on Friday night, Perkins went on NBC Sports Boston's "Celtics Postgame Live" to drop a spicy take.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Magic, which begins Sunday at 4 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 5 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

"Jaylen Brown, to me, is the best all-around shooting guard in the league," Perkins said. "Pure point blank."

Brown is enjoying a career season, averaging 20.6 points on 48.8 percent shooting with 6.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game while continuing to play elite defense. The 23-year-old has been particularly hot of late, scoring 20 or more points in nine of Boston's last 10 games.

But is Perkins saying Brown is the best shooting guard in the NBA -- better than All-Stars like Bradley Beal and Devin Booker, not to mention MVP finalist James Harden?

Here's Perk's explanation:

He don't search for shots. He's not a high-volume scorer. But when you look up at the end of the night, he's got his 20 points on over 50 percent shooting. And he locks up the best guy every single night. You can't find that. And his playmaking is underrated. He's got a very high (basketball) IQ.

There are better scorers at the position -- including Harden, the NBA's most prolific scorer -- but you could argue Brown has become one of the league's strongest two-way shooting guards.

And Perkins very much would like to make that argument.

Perkins might take heat for declaring Brown the cream of the shooting guard crop, but his bold take shouldn't distract from the fact that the fourth-year wing is becoming an elite NBA player before our eyes.

Report: 76ers star Ben Simmons to leave NBA bubble for knee surgery

Report: 76ers star Ben Simmons to leave NBA bubble for knee surgery

Is the Philadelphia 76ers' worst-case scenario playing out?

All-Star guard Ben Simmons will leave the NBA bubble to undergo surgery on his left knee, The Athletic's Shams Charania reported Saturday.

The procedure will "remove a loose body" from Simmons' knee, per Charania. The timetable for his recovery is unclear, but ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski suggested he'll at least miss the first round or two of the NBA playoffs.

Simmons injured his knee Wednesday during Philly's win over the Washington Wizards and was diagnosed with a subluxation of his left patella, or kneecap.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Magic, which begins Sunday at 4 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 5 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

His injury obviously has massive implications for the Sixers and the rest of the Eastern Conference -- particularly the Boston Celtics, who would match up with Philly in the first round if the season ended today.

Boston currently is the No. 3 seed in the East, while the Sixers are the No. 6 seed but have the same record as the No. 5 Indiana Pacers with four seeding games remaining.

Simmons is averaging 16.4 points, 7.8 rebounds, eight assists and a league-high 2.1 steals for Philly and is the team's best player outside big man Joel Embiid. His absence changes the entire dynamic of Philly's offense and makes the Sixers a much less formidable playoff opponent.