Boston Celtics

After Robert Williams missed his conference call and a flight back to Boston, Celtics coach Brad Stevens made it a point to let the 6-foot-10 big man know that you only get so many chances to make it in the National Basketball Association.

Since then — and even with the 2018 first-round pick’s Summer League up in the air thanks to a knee injury suffered in a six-minute debut against the Sixers — Stevens has been impressed with the work Williams has put in through practices.

And the attitude he’s brought to them.

“Obviously it’s been well-documented that the first practice wasn’t so hot, but everything since then has been great,” Stevens, holding a quick question-and-answer session with the assembled media Monday night in Las Vegas, said. “We’re encouraged by him. I’m really encouraged by his work, by his attitude. He picks things up very quickly.”

The Boston bench boss slight praise of Williams’ efforts comes on the heels of league sources telling The Athletic’s Jay King that the Celtics were shifting coach Alex Barlow​ away from their G-League affiliate and into a new role​ in Boston with one of his responsibilities  specifically with rookie Robert Williams.

An associate head coach for the Maine Red Claws, the 26-year-old Barlow has been with the Celtics since 2015, and played his college basketball at Butler under Stevens. The Celtics have seemingly set him up to be Williams’ greatest influence in the first year of his life in the NBA. And on a championship caliber squad, no less.

From King:

“Barlow’s new role on the Celtics staff has not been defined in full, but it’s already clear he will be asked to help Williams both on and off the court in ways the Celtics provide guidance to all their young players. The particulars of the relationship may evolve, but the current plan calls for Barlow to assist Williams with everything from his perimeter ball handling to his free throw shooting to his professionalism. If Williams ultimately spends time with the Red Claws, Barlow could end up taking the trip alongside him.”

Although Williams has not played since suffering the aforementioned knee injury (they’re calling it a contusion) last weekend, the Celtics have yet to officially rule him out of the rest of their Summer League slate.

Williams averaged 10.4 points and 9.2 rebounds per game in his sophomore season at Texas A&M last year.