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If Rob Williams’ recovery from a partial left meniscectomy on March 30 went as well as initially projected, then his earliest estimated return date would have been April 27 – just in time for Game 5 of Boston’s first-round playoff series with the Brooklyn Nets.
However, it appears that Williams’ recovery didn’t go as expected; it went far better than anyone could have hoped.
When the Celtics’ Game 3 injury report came out Friday afternoon, Williams’ status had suddenly been changed from “OUT” to “QUESTIONABLE.” On Saturday afternoon, head coach Ime Udoka confirmed that Williams could make his 2022 postseason debut later that night in Brooklyn, where Boston will look to take a 3-0 series lead.
If all goes to plan, Williams would be returning to action just 23 days following a knee surgery that was projected to result in a 28- to 42-day recovery period.
“The four-to-six-week time frame is a broad one and everyone reacts differently,” Udoka said following Saturday’s shootaround in Brooklyn. “He’s met the benchmarks as we’ve gone, and we’ve been impressed by his progress. No extra pain, no extra swelling, all positive going forward. If he comes back a little sooner based on how he’s looking and reacting to treatment, then great.”
Williams has steadily ramped up his activity over the past week, participating in contact drills and scrimmages to get him back into game shape. From what his teammates have noticed, he looks like the same old Rob, pre-surgery.
“From what I’ve seen, he looks good,” said Marcus Smart. “He’s getting off the floor, moving well – the Rob we’re all used to knowing.”
Smart credits Williams’ rapid progress to the determination with which the fourth-year center approached his rehab process.
“The fact that he’s making strides to get back shows he’s doing everything the right way with the rehab to get back,” said Boston’s starting point guard. “So it definitely means a lot to us, him doing that, and taking strong to his rehab to get back. It shows us how serious he is and how bad he wants to be there with us, and we can’t wait to have him out there.”
If Williams can suit up Saturday night, he’s expected to play around 20 minutes and potentially in a bench role. The team wants to be cautious in ramping up his live game action; though, they’re also optimistic in how his body should react based on the minimal swelling and pain he felt following his scrimmage sessions.
“The concern is minimal because he's cleared every benchmark and cleared it well,” said Udoka. “Although you can't emulate a real game situation (in practice), he has had solid 20- to 25-minute scrimmages and coped well and felt great the next day … The game is different, but everything he's done has led us to believe it'll be okay when he gets back into the game.”
When he does get back into the game, Williams should provide a massive boost to Boston’s league-leading defense – a unit that has stifled Brooklyn’s superstar duo of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving for the most part through two games.
“Rob is a big key part to that defense,” said Smart, the Defensive Player of the Year. “So for us to be able to do what we’re doing without him just only makes us that more potent when he gets back.”