The man who overslept on his first conference call with Boston reporters will be turning over a new clock.
Robert Williams, dubbed Timelord for lateness issues early in his NBA career, is apparently a more timely lord when it comes to his most recent injury. While most were expecting the center to return by the middle of next week at the earliest, he could be on the floor in Game 4 against the Nets Monday — or even Game 3 tomorrow.
“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,” said an NBA medical source. “You’re not putting a lot on his shoulders, and you could be helping his progress.”
Williams suffered a torn meniscus in a game against Minnesota on March 27 and underwent surgery to remove a small piece of that cartilage three days later. The team then announced a four-to-six-week timetable for his return, while adding that the procedure went as hoped and that Williams was already moving ahead well with his recovery.
Since then, coach Ime Udoka has spoken encouragingly about Williams’ playing prospects, while seeming to always add a note of caution to account for a potential setback and to lessen any pressure the fourth-year big man may be feeling.
“He’s getting out there,” Udoka said before Wednesday’s Game 2. “It’s a comfort level thing with him. The risk is re-injury, swelling or something like that coming off of surgery, (so it’s a) little bit of pain tolerance and seeing how his body reacts to upping the level physically.
“We’re still planning on playing without him, but (we’re) happy with his progress,” Udoka added.
Williams Had Been Playing 3-on-3
Williams had been upgraded to playing three-on-three with contact earlier this week, a clear sign that, with proper conditioning and no adverse day-after effects, a return during this first round encounter with the Nets was a strong possibility, depending on how long the series lasts.
With the Celtics taking a 2-0 lead into Brooklyn, there was the general idea that they could let Williams take his time even if ready. And if the series lead stretches to 3-0, it might be prudent to have him wait until the second round against the Bucks or Bulls, who are tied 1-1.
And while Udoka confirmed Thursday that Williams will be on the trip to New York, he added no specific plan for his court comeback.
“This is the time of year we want him around the team camaraderie-wise and his impact just being around the group, to be in that playoff atmosphere,” the coach said. “And regarding him, he’s progressing well. (He’s) had no setbacks and that benchmark of where we aimed of 4-6 weeks is looking good, and so we’re happy with his progress.”
Regarding Williams playing, a source told Heavy.com, “You always look at the risks, but things look good so far. That doesn’t mean he’ll play right away.”
Could Be a Celtics Cameo for Williams
And if Williams does manage to find his way onto the floor for Game 3, it doesn’t mean he’ll play for very long.
The Celtics don’t have to alter anything for Williams, so, if he’s physically up to it, he could well get in for a few short stints to bolster the Boston defense. Having him in the lane to alter shots and on the perimeter closing out to shooters — even in a cameo role — could help shorten the series and benefit the entire club.