Celtics Receive Devastating Update on Rob Williams Injury: Report

Robert Williams

Getty Robert Williams of the Boston Celtics

The Boston Celtics‘ hopes of a deep playoff run took a huge blow when center Robert Williams was ruled out for the foreseeable future with a meniscus tear, according to a March 28 tweet by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

The fourth-year big man sustained the injury during the Celtics’ 134-112 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on March 27. Williams, 24, has been essential to the Celtics’ run to the top of the Eastern Conference standings and has been one of the league’s best rim protectors all year, blocking 134 shots, which is second in the league.

It wasn’t the first time Williams suffered a season-defining injury. Last year, he missed 12 of the Celtics’ final 17 regular-season games and two playoff games with a turf toe injury. Williams could return before the end of the playoffs (assuming the Celtics make it out of the first round), but that could be a best-case scenario if Williams has to, according to Wojnarowski, “minimally miss several weeks.”

The Louisana native’s switchable defense and offensive rebounding had been a welcome addition to the Celtics’ starting five this season, and now Boston will need to look elsewhere to fill the gap left by a player who had a legitimate case for Most Improved Player.

Udoka Noted How Williams Was in Pain Following Win

Speaking to the media after the Celtics had taken care of business against the Timberwolves, head coach Ime Udoka noted how Williams did seem to be in “quite a bit of pain” after getting hurt.

“He said it wasn’t even a specific play that he remembers, but he came out of the game. Had some pain, obviously went back to get checked out, was in quite a bit of pain. He’ll get scanned in the morning, and we’ll know more then,” Udoka said. “It’s too early. … Until the scan comes back in the morning we’ll know more. … Quite a bit of pain on the lateral side, but nothing more than that.”

Before sustaining his injury, Williams was having an excellent game, with 13 points, 10 rebounds and a block in 23 minutes of play.

Williams had grown into a core starter, with many considering his presence integral to Boston’s chances of overcoming teams such as the Brooklyn Nets or Milwaukee Bucks in the playoffs.

Daniel Theis Will Likely Take Williams’ Minutes

When the Celtics acquired Daniel Theis at the February 14 trade deadline, Celtics fans were happy to have a high-level backup big man who already knew the team. However, few would have envisioned Theis having to step into a prominent role.

Still, while Williams is clearly the more impactful player, Theis is a capable backup who is incredibly diverse in how he operates in pick-and-roll scenarios. The fifth-year big is also an adept screener and capable floor spacer, shooting 33.3% from deep.

Theis isn’t likely to step into the starting five, but probably will see his minutes off the bench increase. When Al Horford or Robert Williams have missed time this year, Udoka has leaned on Grant Williams to step in and provide floor spacing, defensive versatility and leadership — so it makes sense that Williams will continue in that role until his namesake returns from injury.

Boston’s playoff hopes might have taken a hammer blow with Robert Williams’ injury, but the team does have a viable list of big men who can contribute by committee. Outside of Grant Williams and Theis, the team can lean on Luke Kornet, a proven commodity in terms of pick-and-roll defense and rim protection.

It’s also worth remembering that Boston still has an open roster spot and may be able to find a short-term replacement in the free-agency market, although that seems unlikely. Hopefully, Robert Williams’ injury turns out to be relatively minor and fans will see him patrolling the paint by the time the second round of the playoffs rolls around.

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