Robert Williams is back, but what did he look like?

The long-awaited return of Robert Williams III finally arrived last night, and there’s a lot to be excited about. Sure, his first game back might have been slightly overshadowed by an 8-point loss to a bottom-five team in the NBA that has nothing to do on the same court as the C’s. But, it’s not about how Rob looks right now, or even how the celts are currently using it. Instead, it’s about what the Celtics could It looks like once he catches up it’s time for the playoffs.

Difficult moments

Despite decent stats with a perfect shooting percentage, it wasn’t all sunshine and daisies for Rob last night. For starters, his first turn on the court was plagued by 3 quick fouls. He didn’t seem as focused on the weak side of him as you’d like him to be, and he didn’t have the same defensive lurking feeling we’re used to seeing; He even said after the game that he was “a step slow defensively” and that he is “getting back on track.”

However, all this is understandable. No matter how hard you try to get back into shape during practice or through scrimmages, there’s nothing like catching your breath playing in a legitimate game, and that’s what Rob will have to do over the next few weeks to get back up to speed. . .

Here, Williams isn’t playing with the intensity required to make a game-saving comeback down the stretch. After making no effort to put his body into his defensive task, Rob reacts late to the rebound and lets a vastly inferior athlete, Markelle Fultz, lift him off the easy offensive backboard. It’s an uncharacteristic play for Williams, but I’m going to chalk it up to him getting his conditioning back and not quite ready to make multiple efforts on any given possession. That will come, however. We’ve seen it before and I’d be surprised if we don’t see it again.

More of the same

“He looked good,” Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said of Robert Williams after the game. “He seemed comfortable out there.”

Even a sub-100% Time Lord showed glimpses of the All-NBA Second Team defensive stopper we know and love.

Few players in the NBA can do this block. From basically a standing position, Rob rises up in the lane and completely eliminates Mo Bamba’s feeble drop attempt. Frankly, he has nothing to do to even contest Mo’s shot, but it’s the kind of physical tools and defensive instincts that make Williams special.

Rob also displayed some of the athleticism that makes him a unique offensive threat.

Sure, Luke Kornet or even Blake Griffin could have dunked this ball, but the fact that Marcus Smart kept the ball on this dribble with the intention of Rob looking openly at the rim shows me that the Celtics will go after the lob more aggressively now than Williams. is back.

edge gravity

Despite having the best offense in the NBA, the Celtics have lacked an offensive threat at the rim. Rather than someone who can finish high above the rim and space the ground vertically, Rob is someone whose gravity on the rim opens up driving lanes for his teammates. Every other Celtics will enjoy having Rob back because big opponents will think twice before leaving Williams in the dunk spot, resulting in less stamina at the rim.

Here, Bamba is a slow step to react to Smart’s momentum because he is afraid of giving up the easy lob to Williams. It results in an easy finish to Smart on the edge.

After the game, Mazzulla highlighted Rob’s offensive impact: “he really helped our vertical space on the offensive end.”

my favorite work

Believe it or not, my favorite offensive game of Rob’s came on a possession where he didn’t even touch the ball.

The Celtics’ offense has been filled with cuts, off-the-ball moves and back screens, and that’s what has made them so hard to stop; Smart, timely, and purposeful off-the-ball actions have led to opening up three-point looks for Celtics shooters (and they have plenty of those, by the way). On this play, Williams sets up a very heady rear screen for Jaylen Brown once he realizes that both Franz Wagner and Bol Bol are focused on Tatum’s drive to the rim and collapsing in the paint. Even though it didn’t result in an open three this time, that kind of selfless projection is what has been the Celtics’ special sauce this year. And, from the initial look, Robert Williams will only add to that.

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