It was widely regarded as good news that the Celtics upgraded center Robert Williams III to “questionable” for Wednesday’s Game 5 against Milwaukee in a hard-fought Eastern Conference semifinal battle, but within the organization, there is still some hand-wringing going on over how Williams’ recovery from his March meniscus surgery has gone.
There are some who wanted to be cautious with Williams, given his history of knee trouble, especially in the left knee, which has been bothersome all year. The Celtics have a four-year investment in Williams that kicks in next season stemming from the $48 million extension he signed before the season.
“There were some who worried about the pace of him coming back,” a source told Heavy.com. “There is a long-term investment in the guy and there is a thought of, why hurry this? Give him time. But the thought that his recovery would be the same either way won out..”
Williams had the meniscus surgery at the end of March. Because part of the meniscus was removed, not repaired (which takes months of recovery time), his original timetable to come back was four-to-six weeks. Instead, Williams returned on April 17 for Game 3 against Brooklyn, a little less than three weeks after the surgery.
Heavy.com NBA insider Steve Bulpett reported ahead of Williams’ return that a medical source told him, “If you’re going to be working him hard and putting him through contact in practice to get him ready, there’s no real additional risk to having him do it in a game for a few minutes here and there.”
NBA Insider: Celtics ‘Have to Manage’ Williams’ Injury Through Playoffs
Circling back with Bulpett in a video conversation Wednesday morning, he pointed out that while Williams may prove to be fine, his source never said that there would be no further complications.
“That was in relation to bringing him back for Game 3 against the Nets in a limited basis, so it was not saying, ‘Hey, he’s fine forever.’ It was, hey, you’ve got him working out anyway, if you bring him back now, you’re not going to kill him here,” Bulpett said. “You’re going to be playing him limited (minutes), and if he shows any sign at all of a problem, you’ve replicated one of his workouts.”
Williams’ injury figures to be one that the team has to deal with throughout the length of its playoff run.
“I don’t know the extent of whether there is any serious damage, they took out a piece of the cartilage, so there can be soreness related to it, but unless it is another tear that developed, this is just a rest thing he is going to have to manage throughout the playoffs,” Bulpett said.
But holding him out of Game 4 in Milwaukee, which was a must-win with the Celtics down 2-1 in the series indicated that the pain Williams was experiencing was significant. “It had to be concerning enough to keep him out of Game 4 in Milwaukee and if the Celtics lose that one, it is not technically over, but as we’d say in Boston, it’s pretty much ‘ovah,’” Bulpett said.
Ime Udoka: ‘Natural Soreness’ Caused Williams’ Absence
Celtics coach Ime Udoka downplayed the severity of Williams’ injury on Monday, when the Celtics won Game 4. He said that Boston anticipates Williams getting back on the floor and being productive in the series.
“We would expect so,” Udoka said. “Like I said before, he has had some natural soreness after upping his minutes and intensity, and so, like I said, not unexpected after a surgery. But you just expect it to calm down and get back out there for next game.”