Amid the Celtics up-and-down play over the past few weeks, Robert Williams has been a consistent bright spot. Over the last month, he’s averaging 10 points, eight rebounds, and three blocks a game, while playing just under 20 minutes per contest.
Many fans have wondered why Williams hasn’t played more during that stretch, especially given his abilities at the rim on both ends of the floor. Speaking with Toucher & Rich on Thursday morning, Celtics GM Danny Ainge explained Williams’ lack of playing time.
“Robert has had health issues over the last couple of years and we’re just trying to build him up – build up the minutes,” Ainge noted. ” So we’re trying to be selective…He’s put in a lot of time to his body to get himself healthy and in the condition to do it. I mean, I’m very excited just because, not only is he healthy, but he looks conditioned enough to play with that intensity for every minute he’s on the court.”
So far, Williams has played 33 of the Celtics’ 40 games this season. A hip injury (and positive COVID test) saw him bounce in and out of the lineup early in the year, but he’s missed just two games since January 20. Even though he’s managed to stay healthy, the Celtics are keeping their conservative approach due to his aggressive style of play.
“There’s a difference between playing – pretty much every player can go out and play 20 minutes. But to play like he plays for 20 minutes is not very easy to do,” Ainge explained. “We’re just trying to build up the stamina in his body and in his legs and his conditioning. And to play that hard for that long is – night in and night out has been very impressive this year.”
Things do appear to be trending in the right direction for Williams. He played 26 minutes on Wednesday night – a new season high. The more the Celtics can get him on the floor the better, as he’s proved to be a spark plug for the team in recent weeks. In fact, Ainge singled out Williams as an exception when discussing the Celtics’ lack of intensity at times being a players issue.
“Rob is trying to inspire us with his defense and his energy,” he noted. “He’s getting an opportunity to play and he’s trying to make the most of it. And he’s making a strong, strong impression, trying to [get] his teammates to play with the same kind of intensity.”
The stats back up Williams’ value too. In game he plays less than 15 minutes this year, the team is 9-11. When he gets over the 20 minute mark they’re 11-9, and 5-4 when he plays more than 20.
You can listen to the full Danny Ainge interview with Toucher & Rich below:
Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at abarth@985TheSportsHub.com.