Rob Williams’ Knee Injury Deemed a ‘Short-Term Thing’

Robert Williams limped back to the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse visitor’s locker room just before halftime of Monday night’s matchup between the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers and did not return to the court for the remainder of Boston’s 98-92 win. The good news is that his injury doesn't appear to be a long-term concern.

The following day, Williams was diagnosed with left knee tendinopathy and was listed as “questionable” for Wednesday night’s matchup in Atlanta, which was the first indication that it was not a serious ailment. He has since been downgraded to “out,” but head coach Ime Udoka confidently labeled the injury as a “short-term thing” following Wednesday morning's shootaround.

“Just didn’t feel ready to go tonight,” Udoka relayed to the media. “He felt better than the other night when it happened, but just being cautious with that.”

Williams later confirmed, “It’s getting better. Just taking it day-by-day, see how I feel.”

The fourth-year center couldn’t determine exactly when or how the injury occurred, but he was visibly hobbled by the midway mark of the second quarter, and so the team subbed in Al Horford to take his place.

“I just remember starting to take steps down the court and starting to feel that pain,” Williams recalled. “Wasn’t trying to show it to the coaching staff, but when they saw me limping a little bit, they took me out.”

It’s the second time in the past month that Williams has been diagnosed with knee tendinopathy, after dealing with it in his right leg toward the end of the preseason. However, he’s not too concerned with the nature of the injury, noting how he’s pushed past it in the past.

“I know what I’ve overcome before and I know how well our staff is as far as treating it and getting me back right,” Williams said. “So just a little bump in the road I need to get past.”

Although the minor injury is only a bump in the road, Williams will still keep a close eye on it, especially since his body is under greater demand this season. He has played 30.8 minutes per game in 13 appearances (all starts) after averaging 18.9 minutes per game in mostly a reserve role last season.

“Obviously playing the most minutes I’ve played in my career, it’s something I gotta be on top of as far as treatment-wise and everything else,” he said.

Williams has been a rock in Boston’s frontcourt this season, averaging 10.0 points, 9.2 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, and 1.0 steals per game, while shooting a league-leading 73.4 percent from the field.

It’s going to be challenging to replace his impact tonight, especially while going up against Atlanta’s elite frontcourt combination in Clint Capela and John Collins, which combined for 43 points, 19 rebounds, six assists, five steals, and two blocks during a 129-111 win over Orlando Monday night.

Much of the burden will be placed on the shoulders of former Hawk, Al Horford, who just missed Saturday night’s game in Cleveland due to lower back pain. Grant Williams will also need to step up in his starting role, as he has done in spot starts throughout the season. Aside from those two, Udoka will have a couple of different options to turn to in the second unit.

“We’ll see what we do off the bench, whether it’s going bigger with Enes (Kanter), or it’s downsizing with a guy like Jabari (Parker) like we have in the past,” Udoka said. "Doesn’t change a lot of wing rotations off the bench – it’s more a matter of having one big in there at a time as opposed to two to start with. But we’re comfortable with Grant as the starter. He’s done it quite a bit this year, and then see what they bring off the bench to counteract in the game at the time. They go smaller, with Collins at the five and (Danilo) Gallinari at the four, so we can go a few ways with that.”

The Celtics will also be without Jaylen Brown for the sixth straight game, as the All-Star wing is still dealing with a right hamstring strain. However, Brown has been steadily ramping up his on-court activities, so it’s possible that both he and Williams could be back in time for Friday’s marquee matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers, as long as they continue to progress.

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