Al Horford is back in Boston, and he sounds both excited and motivated to work with Celtics center Robert Williams and help him reach his full potential.
Williams was a 2018 first-round pick of the C's and played one season with Horford before the veteran center left Boston in free agency during the summer of 2019. Horford returned to the Celtics last week in a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder, which included C's point guard Kemba Walker going to OKC.
Horford liked what he saw from Williams this past season, and he's bullish on the young center's ability to get better on both ends of the floor.
"I was really impressed this year with Rob and his growth and his progress," Horford said Thursday morning in a Zoom call with reporters. "I don't know if I would say that I really took him under my wing, but I tried to help him the best way that I could. Seeing him grow, seeing him do some of the things that he's able to do when he's starting to understand the game and how it's coming together for him, it's huge. It's been very refreshing to see his progression, and he's going to continue to get better.
"He has such a good feel for the game defensively and on offense as well, trying to help him be in good positions. I'm going to be in his ear and we're going to be figuring things out together. I'm excited for him. He knows and understands -- is starting to understand everything like taking care of his body and making sure he's putting in the work. I'm really excited for what's ahead for Rob."
Williams is already an excellent defensive player. His shot blocking is quite impressive, and that was on full display in Game 1 of the Celtics' first-round series versus the Brooklyn Nets when he set a single game team playoff record with nine blocks.
There's still plenty of improvement for Williams to make offensively, but he has a good touch around the rim and is very effective on lobs, especially when Boston runs the pick-and-roll.
The primary concern with Williams is his durability. He played just 61 of a possible 154 regular season games over his first two seasons. He also missed 20 games this season.
If Williams can stay healthy, there's a good chance 2021-22 could be a breakout season for him. Having a great mentor in Horford will certainly help in that regard, too.