Maybe Robert Williams wasn’t a draft day steal after all.
Maybe his fall during the 2018 NBA Draft was a fitting representation of the risks he presented as a developmental prospect on and off the court.
When the Boston Celtics took Williams with the 27th pick, he was said to come with medical and character concerns. Those issue have presented themselves in his short tenure with the Celtics.
Here’s what Mass Live’s Fred Katz reported on Williams’ medicals:
“Boston Celtics rookie Robert Williams has an artery condition in both of his legs, multiple sources tell MassLive. A source described the condition as, ‘not too serious.’ It could, however, require a procedure if it were to degenerate down the line. … The rookie has been playing with the condition for years, sources told MassLive.”
Williams’s condition can cause cramping and pain in his calfs, via Johns Hopkins Medicine. He has managed the condition throughout his career.
The character concerns have presented themselves, too.
The Celtics couldn’t find Williams for his introductory conference call. Why? He was sleeping. But no one knew that at the time. In fact, he forced his organization to admit they didn’t know where he was or why he was late. They bit the bullet, and said it was a miscommunication. Williams later admitted he overslept.
Then, to make things worse, Williams missed his first practice, his first day on the job. Imagine not showing up to your first day of work. Inadvisable.
“It was more of a self-upset, because people have a bad image of me, I guess you could say,” Williams told reporters. “So just missing my flight didn’t help but, like I said, just looking to strive past that.”
His coaches weren’t pleased. Jay Larranga, the Celtics assistant coach, made that clear when facing reporters to explain why Williams wasn’t at the team’s first practice.
Williams suffered a knee injury (contusion) within the first six minutes of the opening game of Summer League play. He has missed the two games that followed. That said, in his six minutes of action, Williams managed a dunk and a pretty face-up jumper while making an impact on the defensive end, too. That’s the talent that tempted Boston.
The Celtics have also acknowledged Williams’ issues. The organization is moving Alex Barlow, previously with their minor league affiliate, to work specifically with Williams, according to The Athletic. A handler and full-time tutor makes sense for the rookie, considering how rough Williams’ start has been (in one of the most critical sports towns in the country).
It hasn’t been all bad news, either. Williams is logging hours in the gym and impressing Stevens with his work ethic and intellect.
He’ll need to demonstrate maturity if he wants to make the roster. As the Celtics have depth at center, Williams is not a roster lock, and could start the season in Maine with the Celtics’ Gatorade League affiliate. But he seems like the type of player who’d benefit from proximity to Stevens, Ainge and even veteran Al Horford.
Perhaps Williams is finally responding to his wakeup call. Hopefully, he’s done hitting snooze, and is ready to rise to face a new day in the NBA.