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Grant Williams talks potential Celtics return, free agency, and Marcus Smart trade

In what could be his final appearance in green, the 24-year-old talked about his past and future with the team.

Boston Celtics v Sacramento Kings Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

The Boston Celtics already made their splash of the summer, trading Marcus Smart in a three-team deal for Kristaps Porzingis, but with free agency right around the corner, important decisions still lie in wait.

Grant Williams and the Celtics couldn’t agree on a contract extension last offseason, and he is now set to become a restricted free agent on Friday.

And while Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe recently reported that Williams is likely to be back in Boston next year, the 24-year-old isn’t concerning himself with that talk.

“Whatever happens, you know? I have not much control in this because I allowed my agents and everybody else to focus in on that,” Williams told reporters at a Fanatics event at Foxborough. “Because my whole focus and goal has always been on winning and making sure that team success has been the number one most important thing.”

With the NBA ushering in a new CBA, teams around the league are thinking about their financials more than ever, and Boston has one of the highest payrolls in the league.

Himmelsbach noted that the Celtics won’t let “financial obligations” guide their roster choices, but Brad Stevens still has some tough decisions ahead of him.

“It’s just a matter of the decision of whether or not it’s needed,” the First Vice President of the NBPA said of a potential return to Boston. “Cap-wise, with the new CBA, all these teams, as you see, are trying to get trades and contracts done prior to the CBA truly being enacted. So, you’re going to see a lot of all-in pushes.”

Regardless, Williams is ready for whatever situation is thrown his way.

“Brad and those guys, if they decide to keep me and bring me back, of course I’m going to come back and be excited and happy, ready to play for the Celtics,” said Williams. “If something else happens, then I have to transition.”

The addition of Porzingis will certainly have an impact on whether or not the Celtics decide to re-sign Williams. Reports of their interest in an extension came before the deal was made, and on the night of the trade, rumblings surfaced that Porzingis’ arrival could lead to Williams’ exit.

Porzingis is slated to take on a huge role in Boston, and the Celtics plan to re-sign him to a two-year extension, per NBA insider Marc Stein.

Boston Celtics v Washington Wizards Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images

“Kristaps is amazing,” Williams said. “He’s a talented player. He’s huge. He blocks a lot of shots, he’s active, [and] he’s a guy who can play outside and in as well. He spaces the floor, which you know Joe [Mazzulla] loves to do. He provides that size, as well, to be able to play bigger, to play bigger lineups, and be able to switch more and have protection, similar to that of Rob, where both of them can protect the rim as well as defend in transition.”

And while frontcourt depth may no longer be a priority in Boston, Williams is confident in his ability to adjust to any situation.

“He’s a very special talent, and however I can play around the guys, whether it’s J.T. [Jayson Tatum], J.B. [Jaylen Brown}, Kristaps, Derrick [White], I’ll adapt to that.”

Simultaneously, Porzingis’ entrance came at the cost of a Celtics staple in Smart, who was not just a fan favorite around the city, but a beloved teammate and member of the organization as well.

“[It] definitely hurts a little bit,” Williams said of losing Smart. “Just because you’ve been with someone for so long, and he’s a phenomenal person. A phenomenal teammate. Plays with more heart and passion than anyone across this entire organization and league.”

Trading Smart in the 11th hour came as a shock to Celtics fans, as well as Smart himself, but it displayed the often-harsh business side of the NBA.

“You have to understand that part of this is a business,” Williams said. “You have to be excited about where the team is going and the direction they’re trying to take, and you have to not really hold too much against it because we know Marcus is going to be great wherever.”

Now, Smart will have a chance to bring the same impact he had in Boston to a young, up-and-coming Memphis Grizzlies squad itching to take the next step.

And in his absence, the Celtics will have to find a way to replace the immeasurable intangibles he brought to the table.

“He’s in a great situation with a talented team, and they needed him,” said Williams. “They needed a player like that to defend and also be able to shoot and knock shots down. He’s very, very able to do that, and this team’s going to have to step up in his absence.”

With Smart gone, players like Tatum and Brown will need to take on larger leadership roles, while others will have to make up for the hustle that may not be replaceable. Williams has demonstrated that same intensity at times, but whether or not he’ll be around to deliver it next season remains to be seen.

NBA free agency officially gets underway on Friday, June 30, at 6:00 p.m. ET. Post-Porzingis trade, Williams’ free agency stands as the most eyebrow-raising Celtics storyline, and there’s still no clear-cut direction in which it could go.

“You’ve gotta just focus on doing your job and make sure you come prepared every day no matter what organization you’re playing for,” Williams said. “Nothing’s going to be perfect wherever you’re at. The grass isn’t always greener. You’ve gotta evaluate every circumstance you’re in and come in with a great mentality.”

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