Boston Celtics Coach Ime Udoka Not Ruling Anything Out With Robert Williams
The playoff seeding is set for the Boston Celtics. What remains uncertain is their first-round opponent, and when the team will get injured center Robert Williams back on the court.
The first part of that will be determined Tuesday when the Brooklyn Nets play the Cleveland Cavaliers. First-year coach Ime Udoka tried to clear things up on Williams’ availability during his press conference before Sunday’s season finale with the Memphis Grizzlies. He said the center’s four-to-six-week time frame “is what it is” but didn’t rule out coming back sooner.
The Boston Celtics have clinched the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference
Head back to early January, and the thought of the Celtics securing the second seed in the playoffs was about as far-fetched as possible. They struggled to put wins together, and they struggled to find any cohesiveness in their game. Under Udoka, the Celtics just couldn’t put it together for the first three months of the season.
That changed in January after they found themselves at 25-25 through the first 50 games of the season. A 107-97 victory at the New Orleans Hornets began a nine-game win streak that pushed them over the .500 mark for good.
With Sunday’s 139-110 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies, the Celtics secured the second seed in the Eastern Conference, earning tie-breakers over the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers. Boston will play the winner of Tuesday’s play-in game between the Brooklyn Nets and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Until then, the plan is to stay focused and be ready to go.
“We have a plan mapped out for Saturday or Sunday (when Game 1 will take place),” Udoka said after Sunday’s win, per CLNS media. “We want to get some scrimmaging in and emulate some of the opponents’ plays and dig into their personnel.”
The Boston Celtics are unsure about the availability of Robert Williams
Should the Celtics face the Brooklyn Nets, it will be one tough test in the opening round. The feat is even tougher without their big man on the court.
Williams injured himself on March 27 in a game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He tore his meniscus and immediately had surgery. The initial prognosis was pretty good. After Williams’ surgery, Udoka said 4-6 weeks was probably best-case scenario. That time frame had Williams’ possible return during the second round of the playoffs.
Udoka gave a quick update on Williams before Sunday’s season finale. He said he expects to be without Williams in that first series, but that could change as well.
“The four-to-six-week timetable is what it is,” Udoka said, per CLNS Media. “But guys would come back in three. Everybody reacts differently, so we’re not ruling him out because of that. As I’ve said, we anticipate playing the first round without him.”
Udoka said Williams is coming along fine and hasn’t had any setbacks.
“He’s doing well and he has been since the surgery,” he said. “As I mentioned, he was in great spirits immediately. I think he might have been more scared about it than anything and then realized what it was afterward, being his first surgery.
“It went as well as it could go. He’s doing two-a-days back in Boston. Everybody reacts differently, so you can’t anticipate a date. Barring any setback or swelling or anything like that, we hope to have him back sooner than later.”
Williams is in the running for Defensive Player of the Year
Williams has been a game-changer for the Celtics. He provides the Celtics with a strong defensive presence inside, despite being a 6-foot-8 center. The athletically-gifted Williams gives Boston a shot-blocker and rim-protector. He’s averaging 2.2 blocks in his 61 games this season.
The Celtics significantly turned up their defensive game in the second part of the season, and Williams had a lot to do with it. He often played with Al Horford in the paint, giving the Celtics a solid one-two punch in the middle.
Back in February, Michael Pina of Sports Illustrated put Williams right in the mix for Defensive Player of the year.
“Williams is able to simultaneously defend so many different positions while also cleaning up everybody else’s mistakes on the back end,” Pina wrote.
Williams averaged 9.6 rebounds in the regular season. He wasn’t too shabby on offense, either, putting up 10.0 points and shooting a whopping 73.6% from the floor.