Celtics’ Rob Williams is close to making his season debut after knee surgery, and has been promoted to day-to-day

SAN FRANCISCO — Boston Celtics center Rob Williams has been promoted to D-Day as he nears his return from offseason knee surgery, both Williams and head coach Joe Mazzola said Friday. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Williams tore the meniscus in his left knee in March and had a partial meniscus resection on March 30.
  • Continuing to play through significant swelling and fluid draining from his knee, he missed seven of Boston’s 24 playoff games.
  • Williams and Chief of Basketball Operations Brad Stevens said after the NBA Finals that he would just need to rest, but he felt the discomfort as he ramped up before training camp and underwent surgery on September 23 to remove loose objects and address swelling in the knee.

the background

Williams became a key part of the Celtics’ turnaround last season, playing such a crucial role in the defensive scheme that he earned his first NBA All-Defensive nod. Center averaged 10 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2 blocks per game in his first season as a full-time starter. Returning from his initial procedure, he struggled to stay healthy throughout the postseason. But Williams found a rhythm over time and became one of Boston’s most important players during the Finals.

After surgery in March, Williams returned early for Game 3 of the first round in Boston for a sweep of the Brooklyn Nets. Even though he was a bit rusty and hobbled, he played an increasing role for the Celtics that made it past Milwaukee and Miami. Boston’s defensive scheme relied on his roaming the baseline and shutting down drives that broke through the aggressive perimeter switch. On offense he was a constant threat who also made terrific passes every night salvaging loose balls or finding teammates wide open. The Celtics managed to adapt to him operating at a limited capacity in the playoffs, but they needed him to be 100% to beat the Warriors.

what are they saying

When Williams underwent surgery in September, the team said he would return to active basketball in eight to 12 weeks. Williams then received a PRP injection in mid-October, as I reported Athletic Shams hirsutism, this has led to concerns that it may extend the timeline for his recovery. However, the team has ensured it remains on the right track, exemplified when Williams was brawling after the shooting on November 30, the first time he had played five-on-five publicly since last season.

“It’s a day-to-day process,” Williams said Friday. “We checked so many boxes that I had to check. I worked today feeling so good, you might get some work done after that. See how I feel tomorrow.”

When pressed to see if he could play as soon as next week in Los Angeles, Williams smiled and said, “Day by day. It’s the possibility of anything happening, day by day.”

Mazzola was also asked, and he kept repeating “day after day” as he tried to contain a big smile on his face.

“The most important thing for Rob is that he is comfortable with where he is,” Mazzola said. “From a physical conditioning point of view and from a mental point of view he is comfortable there and it will be fine for him. I think the most important thing is where he is and how he feels and so he keeps working on it and when he is ready he is ready.”

While everyone was tired by the end of the November 30 scrimmage, Williams was on the floor trying to catch his breath. This made it seem unlikely that he could be in good enough shape to play in the NBA after two weeks, but he’s optimistic his condition is in better shape now.

“I hope it changes a lot,” said Williams. “But, nah, we went for it, man. Brawls every day, scrimmage hard, play three-on-three, four-on-four. I got all caught at the end of practice, but it was a bit off. It’s great.”

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(Photo: Paul Rutherford/USA Today)

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