Robert Williams misses the game. Hugging a basketball at his first post-surgery press conference, the Celtics starting center was characteristically upbeat just a week removed from tearing his left meniscus.
Last Sunday, Williams left a game against the Minnesota Timberwolves late in the third quarter after feeling pain in his knee. “I ain’t know what was wrong during the game, but I knew something happened that was going to stop me from playing. I was just telling Payton on the bench, I was like, ‘I’m kinda nervous, bro. My knee’s hurting,’” Williams recalled. “I tried to walk around a little bit, but I couldn’t walk around, so next day, I found out I had torn it, but honestly right now, I’m in a great place mentally. Physically, feeling way better. Just going along with the rehab, standing up for the guys, cheering them on. I’m just ready to come back.”
Williams wasn’t sure when the injury happened against Minnesota — he does suspect it happened contesting a Taurean Prince jumper — but sounds confident in his timetable for a return. Williams felt immediate relief after surgery on Wednesday morning and he and the team are confident he’ll be back within the 4-6 recovery timeline. With the Celtics comfortably out of the play-in tournament, the playoffs with start on April 16th for Boston. Depending on how long the first round goes, it’s conceivable that Williams could be ready by the second round.
But for Williams and the Celtics, it’s all about the future. Williams signed a four-year, $54 million extension last summer and with the progress he’s showed this season, it’s all about Timelord’s bright future. “Everyone here at this organization obviously cares about me long term more than anything, so we’re just making sure it’s the right plan and I’m ready to go,” Williams said.
For now, it’s all about rest and rehab. Even when Grant Williams and head coach Ime Udoka engaged in a fake fight for April Fool’s Day, Rob didn’t get up to break it up because he was icing his knee. It’s not Williams’ first injury with the team and with like the hip edema or foot sprain that have cut prior seasons short, he’s confident with the team’s medical staff. It’s baby steps now, bigger steps later. “As time progresses, there’s a lot of boxes you gotta check. Obviously, you gotta be able to walk fine before you can run. You gotta be able to run in a straight line before you can make angles and cuts...I feel like we’re on the right path.”
So, Williams will continue his rehab and the Celtics will move on without him until his return. “[There’s a] level of comfort for me knowing that they still have their confidence with me missing, because I have that confidence in them,” Williams said as Boston prepares to close out the regular season. “I’m just glad to see them covering for each other.”
When asked if he’s concerned that he can’t return to the same level that’s made him a Most Improved Player and Defensive Player of the Year candidate, Williams smiled and said, “nah, #@$&. Not on my part.”