A little over four years ago, big man Bobby Portis was suspended eight games for punching his teammate, Nikola Mirotic, in the face during practice. Since then, he has garnered a reputation as someone players don’t want to mess with. Boston Celtics forward Grant Williams did not care about that reputation the other night.
Portis flung Williams to the ground when the two were grappling for a rebound in the third quarter of Boston’s win over the Milwaukee Bucks. Once he got to his feet, Williams got right in Portis’ face. The incident resulted in double technical fouls, but no flagrant was called on the play.
Bobby Portis just threw Grant Williams on the ground pic.twitter.com/pIBO0xnqMm— Taylor Snow (@taylorcsnow) December 14, 2021
After the game, Williams was asked about the incident. While he said it’s imperative not to “get suspended by throwing a punch,” he also emphasized the importance of setting a tone:
“Bobby’s a big-time competitor, tough guy, and you have all that respect for him. But you’re not going to let anybody punk you, throw you down, and stuff like that… That communication has to be said.”
The day after the game, Williams doubled-down on this point, telling NBC Sports Boston that you never want to “be that guy that lets someone push you around.”
After a 2-5 start to the season, the Celtics bounced back due to their great defense and toughness. While they slacked off in that regard on their recent west coast road trip, head coach Ime Udoka has made it clear that he wants this team to play with great energy and intensity. When asked about Williams’ dust up with Portis after the game, he reinforced that sentiment:
“Grant knows who he is and what he has to do to be successful. I’d rather him put someone on their ass or get into it than let someone go right down the lane. I welcome that at all times.”
Obviously, it’s not in the team’s best interest to get into fights on a nightly basis, but incidents like this one aren’t malicious. Williams didn’t do anything wrong; he simply defended himself. It’s that ‘never back down’ attitude that Udoka wants to see from his players.
With players such as Marcus Smart and Williams on the team, that spark should always be there. Now, the Celtics just have to show that fight on a nightly basis.