Celtics interim head coach Joe Mazzulla confirmed a badly kept secret prior to Boston taking on the Orlando Magic on Friday night at TD Garden.
Mazzulla told reporters that Robert Williams, who has been sidelined due to an arthroscopic procedure he had on his left knee in September, will indeed make his season debut.
While it was surprising that Mazzulla said Williams will have no minutes restriction in his return, the Celtics will keep a close eye on the defensive difference-maker and don’t plan to take all the bubble wrap off of him just yet.
“There isn’t a restriction, it’s just he hasn’t played in six months,” Mazzulla told reporters, per NBC Sports Boston. “So, it’s just making sure we don’t overuse him and just kind of manage his minutes, how he feels, how he’s playing. So, it’s not necessarily a minutes restriction, it’s just more about how he’s doing during the game and then how he is after each game.”
It’s hard not to get wrapped up in the excitement of Williams coming back, especially with how well the Celtics have performed this season — they own the NBA’s best record — with him on the sideline. Even Malcolm Brogdon showed tremendous enthusiasm about playing alongside Williams, saying he “hasn’t really played with a guy like that.”
As he showed last year, Williams is an interior defensive anchor and much-needed rim protector for Boston. He averaged 2.2 blocks per game last season, good for the second-best mark in the entire NBA. His lob-threat ability will also bring an added dynamic to an offense that is already operating at historic levels.
But the Celtics will take a cautious approach and monitor Williams closely as the 25-year-old integrates himself back into game action.
Mazzulla did not reveal if he would start the Texas A&M product or have him come off the bench in his first game of the season.