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Celtics’ rookie Robert Williams still battling knee tendinitis, yet to play 5-on-5

2018 NBA Rookie Photo Shoot

TARRYTOWN, NY - AUGUST 12: Robert Williams #44 of the Boston Celtics poses for a portrait during the 2018 NBA Rookie Photo Shoot at MSG Training Center on August 12, 2018 in Tarrytown, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

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Robert Williams, the center out of Texas A&M, was a steal in the draft for Boston, having fallen all the way to No. 27. He has incredible athleticism and a 7’5.5” wingspan and in college used those tools to be a shot blocking and rebounding force, skills that can translate over to the NBA.

We haven’t seen much of that, however. One game into Summer League he banged knees with a 76ers player, which aggravated Williams’ knee tendonitis. That is still an issue, and he has yet to be medically cleared to play 5-on-5 just weeks before training camp opens, Williams told Tom Westerholm of Mass Live.

“Still taking it day by day,” Williams said. “There’s people that have a lot of time, a lot of money invested in you now, they don’t want to mess up what they got going. But I’m thankful for the trainers and the coaches, just taking it day by day.”

“Just strengthening places I need to strengthen,” Williams said. “Obviously my knee, obviously knowing what’s going on out there on the court, knowing the calls before (Brad Stevens) throws in me a 5-on-5 game. He’s been teaching me actually the past couple days, just hammering in the calls, all the play names, all the big names for things, so it’s just been a great perspective, a great opportunity.”

Boston always planned to bring Williams’ along slowly, he was always viewed as a project. The Celtics have Al Horford and Aron Baynes ahead of him in the center rotation, so Williams was always going to see limited court time in Boston and time in the G-League is not out of the question at all.

Williams has the tools to become a quality NBA center, he just has to get his body right as much as he can — he has an arterial condition in his legs that can lead to blood flow issues. Williams also has to prove he’s willing to work — that was the real reason a guy of his size and skill fell to 27th in the draft. There were questions about his work ethic, questions if he loved the game enough to put in the hours that were needed daily to reach his goal. The fact that he was late to his introductory press conference, then missed a flight, which made him late for Summer League practices, then twice has lost his wallet since the draft, all added to the questions.

It’s on Williams now. And that starts with doing the work to get healthy and stronger and on the court.