Aday after news hit that Celtics center Robert Williams would require surgery on his left knee, the same knee that was operated on in late March to repair a torn meniscus, there is a bit more clarity on how, exactly, Williams got here. Williams is scheduled to have his surgery to clean up small loose bodies in the knee on Thursday in Boston, and while timetables of 4-to-6 weeks and 6-to-8 weeks have been mentioned, there is no set schedule for him to get back to an NBA court.
Still, it’s safe to assume that Williams will be back by late November, assuming the surgery goes well. The arthroscopic procedure is not a major one, but it should address some of the swelling and pain Williams has experienced lately as training camp approached.
For Celtics fans, that has been one of the head-scratchers about the news on Williams—if he needed knee surgery, why wait until a week before camp to have it?
The answer, it turns out, is pretty simple. According to sources, Williams opted to keep pressure off the knee after the Celtics wound up their six-game June loss to the Warriors in the NBA Finals, spending July resting. He then began to ramp up his activity level in August, working out in California, and the knee responded well. There were no indications that another surgery would be needed.
It was only recently that some swelling and pain began to return to Williams’ knee, making the surgery necessary.
Playing Through the Postseason Didn’t Cause Added Damage
One of the other topics that sprung up around Williams since the announcement that he would need surgery is the question of whether he should have played during last year’s playoffs. Williams, remember, had his surgery on March 30, and returned to the court in Game 3 of the Celtics’ first-round win over Brooklyn, just 24 days later.
He battled swelling throughout the playoffs, missed the final four games of the conference semifinals against Milwaukee, and had the knee frequently drained of fluid. Some have blamed the Celtics for pushing Williams to play, but it was his decision in the end.
Before he played in the postseason, Williams had his MRI checked by three different doctors outside the Celtics’ orbit, all of whom gave him the OK to play. The possibility of pain was always there, but the doctors all concluded that there was no chance of causing further damage to the knee by playing in those games.
In fact, as the postseason went on, Williams experienced less pain and did not need to get shots to drain fluid. Playing in those games, in other words, did not lead to this surgery.
As a comparison, Bulls point guard Lonzo Ball chose not to come back to play after his knee surgery in January, and did not return for the playoffs. Yet news on Wednesday came out that Ball, too, will require another arthroscopic knee surgery to address his knee troubles.
Celtics Try to Bridge the Gap
No matter the context in which you view the Williams surgery, it is obviously a blow for him and the team. He’s entering his fifth season, after having had had a breakout year in 2021-22, which was the healthiest season of his career. He averaged 10.0 points and 9.6 rebounds, with 2.0 assists and 2.0 blocked shots.
Most important, Williams played 61 games, the most of his career. He played in only 113 games in his first three NBA seasons, which were mostly shortened by injury.
The Celtics are scrambling to add depth to their center position but seem intent on sticking with finding young, untested players to fill the role. The team added 22-year-old Luka Samanic, a former Spurs first-rounder in 2019, to their training camp roster on Wednesday.