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Robert Williams on knee surgery: ‘We’re going to get it right this time’

The Celtics big man discussed his injury for the first time since his surgery.

2022 NBA Playoffs - Boston Celtics v Miami Heat Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

Boston Celtics Media Day provided big man Robert Williams with his first opportunity to speak with the media after his recent knee surgery. As reported by the team, the injury will cause him to miss roughly 8-12 weeks of action, meaning he may not return to the court until 2023.

Williams was asked about what led to the injury and the need for surgery this late into the offseason. He said that there were recurring problems with his knee, also mentioning the mental toll the injury has taken on him.

“Just some recurring problems,” Williams explained. “Obviously, it took a toll on me mentally. I want to be there. But all I can focus on is rehab now. Getting back on the court.”

The 24-year-old center has dealt with injuries throughout the course of his young career. Since entering the league back in 2018, he’s only appeared in 174 games in four seasons. Last year marked the first time he was able to play in over 60 games (61).

This past March, Williams tore his meniscus in the same knee he just had surgery on, which presumably led to the current issues. Despite that, he ended up playing in the playoffs for Boston, helping them reach the NBA Finals. When asked about the decision, he said that it was his choice to continue playing.

“We all know I was battling through injuries at the end of last season. I made a decision as a man to keep playing. It was my decision, regardless of the recurring injuries whenever they did happen,” Williams stated.

While he was able to play in the playoffs, the injury had clearly taken a toll on him. During the regular season, he was able to play 29.6 minutes per game, but in the postseason, that number was cut down to just 23.2. His numbers also took a dip.

Last year, both Brad Stevens and Ime Udoka mentioned that the key to rehab for Williams would be rest. Obviously, that was made difficult, as the team made a run to the Finals. However, Williams said that this time around, he’s going to be all-in with rehab and plans to “do things the right way.”

“I was playing on it last year,” Williams said. “It had instances where I had to give it time, the rest. I just feel like it never got back to what it was. Bottom line. So, I just want to be 100% with rehab. Do things the right way.”

But despite the lengthy timetable for return this time around, Williams said that he has no regrets about playing in the playoffs.

“No… I played in the Finals, man,” Williams said with a smile. “You win some, you lose some, but I don’t regret my decision at all. I was 24 years old, my dream was to play in the Finals. Can’t regret that s***.”

Boston will have to make do without Williams for the next 2-3 months, but he’ll now have a chance to get fully healthy. As mentioned, injuries have plagued him for his entire career, so taking the time to get completely right will be crucial for Williams.

Williams was asked whether or not he thinks this rehab process will help him fix things for good. While he admitted that no one can predict the future, he’s confident with the way things are currently being handled.

“Nobody knows if they’re going to get hurt again,” Williams said. “But like I said, I’m pretty confident, man. I made a decision to come back in a timely fashion last year. But, you know, we’re going to get right this time, man.”

In addition to his own injury, Williams and the Celtics are dealing with the Udoka situation as well. Udoka was suspended for the entirety of the upcoming season after it was discovered that he had a relationship with a team staff member. The team deemed it a violation of the organization’s code of conduct.

When asked about the situation, Williams said that while the current circumstances are unfortunate, he’s focused on basketball.

“We’ve got a job. We’re here to do our job,” Williams stated. “It’s an unfortunate situation, everything that’s going on. But I can’t speak on that too much, I’m here to speak on basketball.”

After Udoka’s suspension, the Celtics named Joe Mazzulla as the interim head coach of the team. Mazzulla was an assistant coach for the Maine Red Claws, now known as the Maine Celtics, from 2016-17 and then re-joined the Celtics as an assistant coach in 2019.

Williams said that he has a close relationship with Mazzulla and even got caught slipping when addressing his new head coach.

“Us as a staff, as players, and organization, we trust Joe. Oh, my bad. Coach. We trust coach,” said Williams, laughing at his mistake. “I got a personal relationship with him for a while. We all in, man. We locked in. We’ve got a job to do, we’re trying to hoop.”

With Williams in the lineup last year, Boston was home to one of the most devastating defenses in the NBA. And while they’ll have to survive without him for the first few months of the season, he’s confident in his current rehab process and the team’s ability to move past the current situations.

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