Robert Williams III said at shoot around this morning ahead of Celtics-Spurs that his seven-game absence with swelling behind his left knee was unrelated to hip soreness that Brad Stevens and the Celtics managed with a minutes restriction earlier this season. Tendinitis kept him off the floor and limited his ability to practice late last week.
The inflammation, he said, also does not relate back to longer-term bouts with tendinitis during his basketball career.
“Nah. They not connected,” Williams said. “I’ve been dealing with tendinitis for a while, it’s something we were able to get under control when I got here.”
Injury concerns, in part, resulted in Williams falling to No. 27 in the 2018 NBA Draft despite his athletic prowess, shot blocking and promise he has fulfilled this season. Fred Katz of MassLive originally reported the blood flow and tendinitis issues Williams that teams became aware of leading up to draft night.
Popliteal artery entrapment syndrome (PAES), the vascular disease Williams has been dealing with, is found most often in athletes. Because of where the muscles and tendons around Williams’ knee are positioned, they end up compressing the “popliteal artery,” the main one behind the knee, restricting blood flow to the lower leg. It can lead to cramping and calf pain during exercise, per Johns Hopkins Medicine ...
Williams has been dealing with tendinitis in his left knee since last year, he told reporters after the Celtics’ Monday win at Las Vegas Summer League. He has missed two of the team’s three games in Vegas after suffering a left knee contusion during the first quarter of the summer league opener.
The Celtics built up his lower body strength while he played sparingly behind veterans as a rookie. The hip injury knocked him out for 37 games last season, and Boston’s medical staff wanted to carefully increase his minutes once he earned a larger role this year. The Celtics had to feel good enough about his health to trade Daniel Theis at the deadline and move Williams into a starting role.
“The hip is not bothering him,” Stevens said earlier this year. “We’re just trying to manage it over the course of the long season so that he’s available more often than not, and then able to peak in minutes late.”
The Celtics are 9-2 in games where Williams plays since he became a starter earlier this month. That role changed when he returned on Wednesday, when Tristan Thompson started and Williams played 17 minutes — after averaging 25.2 per game in his 10 starts.
“The process is really getting back in the room,” Williams said today. “We don’t have that many games left in the regular season. So we need as many of them as we can get.”
He scored four points, with nine rebounds, two blocks and two steals while Boston outscored Charlotte by eight minutes with him on the floor. In April, the Celtics have posted a 116 offensive rating and 107 defensive rating with him on the floor. His assist percentage this month (17.5%) surpasses that of even Payton Pritchard and Jaylen Brown. He ranks in the top-20 of rebounding percentage (20.7%) this season. His 9.0 block percentage is tied for sixth in the NBA.
“It’s always a frustrating situation, being out with injury obviously at such a critical time, knowing the role that I play for my teammates, but it’s all about health man, getting better, so I feel like I’m better for it,” Williams said. “I want to be out there playing for our guys, 100%, (but) energy is more than just on the court ... (it’s) just checking on guys, bringing a good spirit.”