Speaking on a November 23 episode of ESPN’s NBA Countdown, Wojnarowski shared some intel on when Celtics fans can expect to see their defensive anchor return to the rotation, having missed the start of the season as he recovered from surgery.
“Robert Williams, who had surgery on his left knee two months ago today. His agent, Kevin Bradbury told me tonight that he expects Robert Williams will be back by Christmas. That gives him another month here, he’s progressing well on his rehab. And listen, this is a player who had two surgery’s in the last calendar year, they certainly want to take their time. Even without him, this is a team with the best record in the NBA, but they expect him to be back by Christmas,” Wojnarowski said.
Williams dealt with a meniscus injury towards the end of the 2021-22 regular-season, undergoing surgery before returning to help Boston make a run to the NBA finals, but then had a second surgery this past summer and has yet to suit up for the Celtics this season.
Williams’ Return Could be Bad News For Noah Vonleh
According to an Eastern Conference Executive, who spoke with Heavy on Sports’ Sean Deveney under the condition of anonymity, Robert Williams’ return could mean that Noah Vonleh is released by the Celtics if they’re looking to acquire some additional big man help closer to the trade deadline.
“Robert Williams comes back, and Vonleh is, what, your fifth big guy? If they’re looking to add something, though, it is probably a wing. That would mean Jackson probably is out. But when we get to the buyout market, by the time we get to the playoffs, there is a good chance both Jackson and Vonleh get replaced…“They are not going to get rid of Blake Griffin, they like his presence there, his experience level,” the exec said.
Vonleh has played in 12 games for the Celtics so far this season, starting one of them, and has provided his team with averages of 1.9 points, and three rebounds per game while shooting 52.6% from the field. Still, if the Celtics feel like they can upgrade their center rotation, then Vonleh may find himself looking for a new team in the coming months.
Williams’ Could Improve Boston’s Defense
The Celtics currently boast the 17th-ranked defense in the NBA, a far cry from the league-leading defensive unit we saw from them last season and throughout the playoffs. However, Williams’, a 2021-22 All-Defense Second Team selection, should have a significant impact on that side of the ball once he returns.
Last season, Williams swatted away an average of 2.2 shots per game, and used his athleticism and leaping ability to alter countless more scoring opportunities, allowing the Celtics some margin for error when guarding the perimeter.
Of course, his vertical spacing and above-the-rim style of play will also give Boston a new dimension on offense, although, the Celtics may need to wait a few months before they get to see the best version of Williams, as he continues to work on regaining his fitness.
Still, the news that Williams is nearing his return will be a huge boost to a Celtics team that has already been dominant to start the season and currently boasts a 14-4 record over their first 18 games.