Before the Celtics game in Utah, head coach Joe Mazzulla was asked about the impending return of Robert Williams.
“He was on the court today working,” Mazzulla said on Saturday. “I spoke to him yesterday. He seemed to be in a good place. Seems like he’s getting closer. I’m expecting to see him out there soon.”
It’s been nearly three weeks and eight games since he injured his hamstring against the Nets on March 3rd, but he’s been ramping up over the last week and did not appear on yesterday’s injury report heading into the Celtics’ final game of their six-game road trip in Sacramento tonight.
Boston has been 4-4 in his absence, cobbling together an average offense (116.0 offensive rating) and a decent defense (111.4 defensive rating) while he’s been away. Mazzulla has experimented, giving Blake Griffin several starts and making him the first big off the bench and until recently, marginalizing Grant Williams’ role in the rotation.
With a mediocre record since the All-Star break, Williams could be the jolt of energy that Boston needs for this final playoff positioning push. Before losing the Time Lord, the Celtics were 10-3 with two big wins over Philadelphia and another vs. Cleveland. On the season, they’re nearly ten points better per 100 possessions with Williams on the floor despite him looking not 100% all season. He missed the first 29 games recovering from offseason knee surgery.
The curious question in Williams’ return will be whether or not he’ll be immediately or eventually re-inserted back into the starting lineup. When he came back in December, it took him nine games to get his legs semi-back before Mazzulla went back to the double-big opening five that dominated last season. That fivesome has been less than stellar this year with a -12.4 net rating through just 81 minutes. That may be a small sample size, but there’s also just a small window to find that chemistry again before the playoffs start with just ten games remaining.