The past few months have been a roller coaster for Grant Williams, but unfortunately for him, he’s earned his ticket on the ride. Inconsistent play, general hesitance at the three-point line, and a few rough moments in time have led to him falling out of the regular rotation.
“I was trying to jump inside-hand and try to smack it towards the corner because no one was there,” Williams said. “I was like, ‘time will fly, [the] clock will run…’ Even my head, if you look at it, my head was at Rudy’s elbow the entire time. It was funny.”
On what ended up being the game-deciding play, Williams stole a jump ball from Timberwolves big man Rudy Gobert. There was immediate outrage from the Minnesota sideline, as they believe the Celtics forward jumped early, but no call was made by the referees.
And on the play prior to that, Williams secured a key offensive board that led to the aforementioned jump ball. It was a game-winning sequence made by a player who has been through the wringer as of late, with both the fan wrath and lack of plain time as scars to show for it.
“I know Grant hasn’t had it easy,” Marcus Smart said. “It’s been a rough one for him. But I’m proud of him, and I’m glad that he’s on our team.”
Just a few short games ago, Williams went to the line at the end of a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers with a chance to tie it. Donovan Mitchell approached him, engaged in some smack talk, and Williams told him that he was going to nail both free throws.
He missed them both and the Celtics lost in overtime.
Before that soul-crushing moment, Williams was having his best game in weeks. He was 4-for-4 from behind the three-point line and shooting with the same confidence he displayed during last year’s postseason run. But in just a matter of seconds, it was all stripped away.
Against the Timberwolves on Tuesday night, the reverse happened. Williams had a fairly mediocre game before his clutch plays at the end of the night. He had a nice drive on Kyle Anderson, but that was the only shot he made. Williams went 0-for-3 from distance, pump-faked a few too many times, and let some Timberwolves players get by him too easily on defense. But this time around, a shaky performance was somewhat erased by two meaningful plays that preserved the win.
And maybe that’s the sort of confidence-boosting occurrence he needed to find his footing again.
“I try my best to false-front in a way,” Williams said. “It’s funny because I’ll be the first one off the bench [supporting everyone else] and high-fiving and everything. Teammates will be like, ‘we see you’re dying inside, but you’re doing your best to make sure that everyone else is taken care of.’”
For the first time in nearly two years, Williams has been picking up DNP-CDs. A player who was integral to the team’s incredible playoff run has fallen out of favor at times, but for the most part, he remains a beacon of light on the sidelines.
But the Celtics need more than a cheerleader on the sidelines. As detailed by CelticsBlog’s Bobby Manning, the inconsistent playing time is concerning for a player as important as Williams, especially considering the role he plays in the postseason.
At his best, he’s a versatile defender for the Celtics to throw at Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid, a knock-down shooter who led the Celtics to victory in a Game 7 last year, and an on-court energy boost whenever he’s on the floor. Lately, he just hasn’t been at his best.
In order for him to get there, though, he needs to play through his mistakes. And while that may be ugly right now, it’s a necessary step if Boston wants to reach their ceiling. His performance against the Timberwolves was proof of that.