BOSTON – By his own admission, the beginning of Robert Williams career as a Boston Celtic did not get off to the best of starts.
But the mistakes he has made, while disappointing, have yet to reach a level of magnitude that significantly impacts his development or the team’s chances of winning.
Becoming better, more mature on and off the floor will indeed be among the challenges awaiting the 20-year-old selected by Boston with the 27th overall pick in last June’s NBA draft.
“I started out with a bad slate, missing flight, losing my wallet more than once,” Williams said recently. “But it’s a new era … I have a chance to prove to everyone that I am trustworthy, I am an accountable guy.”
He added, “the thing I’ve picked up on Boston, it’s more of a family than anything else. I feel like the love and support will help me be on the right track.”
But one thing Williams will also learn quickly is that love comes with a price tag – it’s called results.
And while no one expects him to hit the floor and dominate from Day One, the expectation for success is a standard that all Celtics players, regardless of how they get here, are held to.
So, what would make a successful rookie season for Williams?
Tendinitis in his left knee was among the health concerns leading up to the draft (and a factor in why he slid to Boston at No. 27 despite being projected as a lottery pick for most of the build-up to the draft), and it has been an issue in his short time in Boston. Williams isn’t sure if he’ll be able to go at the start of training camp in two weeks. Getting a chance to get on the floor from Day One, learn on the job against veterans such as Al Horford and Aron Baynes, will do wonders for his growth and development in his first season as a pro.
GATORADE LEAGUE DOMINANCE
While outperforming G-League players isn’t a clear barometer for NBA success, the players Boston has sent down for G-League stints that turned out to be good players – Avery Bradley, Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart, to name a few – did perform at a level that made it clear to any and all that they were players who could contribute in a meaningful way in the NBA. With Boston’s depth and penchant for playing more position-less basketball, the expectation is that Williams will spend a good deal of time with Boston’s G-League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws. He was once believed to be a player with lottery (top-14) talent. Players with that kind of potential should absolutely dominate the G-League.
One of the more intriguing aspects of Williams’ game is the ability he has to make an impact around the rim. He spent two years at Texas A&M and was the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year both seasons. With his ridiculously 7-foot-6 wingspan, the 6-10, 241-pound big man can cover a lot of ground quickly whether it be rebounding, shot-blocking or shot-altering with his presence. It remains to be seen how those skills translate at the NBA level. The quicker that potential manifests itself in actual play, the better off both Williams and the Celtics will be.
STAY THE COURSE
Williams is well aware that because of how his time in Boston began with being late for an initial conference call, missing a flight and losing his wallet twice, increased attention will be paid to his every, more than you typically see from a player taken near the end of the first round whose role will be limited. As important as it is for him to grow as a basketball player, it’s even more valuable that he steadily improves off the court. He has owned up to the fact that he has some maturing to do. And to the Celtics credit, they are doing their part to aid in his maturation process. That connection has to stay strong throughout his rookie season which will allow Williams to grow both on and off the court.