Robert Williams

Celtics Notes: Udoka, Stoudamire, All-Star Game, Smart

Celtics assistant coach Damon Stoudamire said he frequently checks in with suspended coach Ime Udoka, whom he’s known for 30 years. Stoudamire has tried to give him advice and keep his spirits high, Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe reports.

“I think that everything that happens to you, when it hits you like this it can really get overwhelming,” Stoudamire said. “So that’s what I check on him about. I check on him to make sure he’s doing all right, and make sure his son is good, and that he’s able to find some type of peace within what he has going on. As a human being when you do something, you beat yourself down. And with the success that we’re having now, it’s human nature, man. You’re sitting there; you’re watching [the team]. I just think the biggest thing is that he’s able to, in his own way, come to some kind of resolution and peace in his mind so he can move forward.”

We have more on the Celtics:

  • In the same story, Stoudamire expressed a desire to be an NBA head coach. He was a head coach at Pacific prior to joining the Celtics staff. He filled in for interim coach Joe Mazzulla when Mazzulla missed a couple of games due to eye irritation. “Of course I want to be a head coach again, but more importantly I want to be prepared when the opportunity presents itself,” Stoudamire said.
  • The Celtics will file an application to host the 2026 All-Star Game, according to Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe. Boston has gone nearly 60 years without hosting it, mainly due to modest interest within the city and among the team’s ownership groups. That thinking has changed because the Celtics expect to remain in championship contention behind All-Star talents Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Having an upgraded facility, plus plenty of hotel space near the arena, has also encouraged the current owners to bid for the game.
  • Marcus Smart has been ruled out for Monday’s game in Orlando due to a sprained ankle suffered Saturday night in Toronto, Tim Bontemps of ESPN tweets. Malcolm Brogdon will also miss the game due to personal reasons, while Robert Williams (knee) is questionable.

Atlantic Notes: Pritchard, Celtics, Harris, VanVleet

Payton Pritchard showed on Saturday night that he’s too valuable for the Celtics to consider moving him before the trade deadline, writes Brian Robb of MassLive. Injuries gave Pritchard a chance to play with the game on the line and he delivered 12 fourth-quarter points, including a three-pointer that turned out to be the game-winner.

Pritchard has recently overtaken Sam Hauser in Boston’s rotation, and he was in the game at crunch time due to injuries to Marcus Smart and Derrick White. Robb acknowledges that several teams have expressed interest in Pritchard, but he doesn’t believe the Celtics can improve their title chances by trading him.

“I’m happy for Payton,” coach Joe Mazzulla said. “This league can be unforgiving at times. You have to be strong-minded, you got to work hard, you got to be patient. Payton’s all of those things. I’ve always told him: Whenever it’s his time, I trust him completely. He was great tonight.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Smart and Robert Williams both left Saturday’s game with injuries, but the Celtics don’t sound overly concerned about either of them, according to Jared Weiss of The Athletic. Smart suffered a sprained right ankle, but X-rays were negative and he’s considered day to day. Williams didn’t return after halftime due to a hyperextended left knee, but Mazzulla assured reporters that he’s OK.
  • The Sixers‘ best option is to hold onto Tobias Harris, at least through the end of this season, contends Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Harris delivered 17 points, six assists and five rebounds Saturday as Philadelphia won at Sacramento without Joel Embiid and James Harden, and Pompey points out that Harris’ willingness to adapt to changing roles has made the Sixers seem like legitimate title contenders. Harris has one year left on his contract, and Pompey believes that if the team wants to unload him, it will be easier this summer when he has an expiring deal.
  • The Raptors fell to 20-27 with Saturday’s loss, and Fred VanVleet understands that the team needs to start winning to avoid major changes at the deadline, per Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca. “In my seven years going through it, you realize there’s nothing you can do about it,” VanVleet said. “The better you play and the better your team does, the lower the chance anybody getting shipped out of here.”

Atlantic Notes: VanVleet, R. Williams, Harrell, Reed, Thybulle

Fred VanVleet‘s extension talks with the Raptors are on hold, but he indicated Sunday that he hopes to reach a long-term deal to stay in Toronto, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN. VanVleet confirmed to reporters that he and the team had discussions about a four-year, $114MM extension before the start of the season, but they made a mutual decision to wait. A new deal can be reached any time up to June 30 if he turns down his player option for 2023/24.

“Without going too far into it … [I’m] just trying to put myself in a good position business-wise, and not take an extension on a deal that was made three or four years ago,” VanVleet said.“I felt like I’ve outplayed that contract thus far. So just trying to get myself in a position to put the cards in their hands. They got to make a decision from an organization standpoint. I love being here. I love being a Raptor. I got a great relationship with (team president) Masai (Ujiri) and (general manager) Bobby (Webster), so I’m confident that we could find (a deal). It’s a great partnership that we have, so going forward, I’m not going to make it easy on them and they’re not going to make it on me either, and that’s the way it’s going.”

VanVleet’s comments are contained in a story on why Toronto might be active ahead of the trade deadline following a disappointing 17-23 start. An Eastern Conference executive told Bontemps that the Raptors will have “plenty of interest” in their top players if they decide to make them available.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Celtics center Robert Williams has only averaged 19.4 minutes in nine games since returning from knee surgery, but he’s making enough of an impact that coach Joe Mazzulla will have to consider making him a starter again, contends Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. Williams is averaging 7.9 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in that limited time, and Boston has been more effective when he’s been on the court. “Whether he starts or comes off the bench, just want him on the floor, want him healthy,” Jayson Tatum said. “Want to be on the floor with him at the same time as much as possible. I’m going to start, so I’d like Rob to start. But whatever is best for the team, he’ll do that.”
  • With Joel Embiid still sidelined, Sixers backup centers Montrezl Harrell and Paul Reed combined for 36 points Sunday as both made a strong case for more playing time, notes Kyle Neubeck of The Philly Voice. Neubeck believes Harrell is in a better position to get consistent minutes once Embiid returns, but says questions persist about his ability to protect the rim.
  • Matisse Thybulle went through two stretches where he wasn’t part of the Sixers‘ rotation this season, but he’s been showing his defensive value lately, observes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Thybulle had five steals Sunday against the Pistons, and Tyrese Maxey said, “At this point, I think they were just passing it to him.”

Atlantic Notes: VanVleet, Embiid, Williams, Claxton

The Raptors offered guard Fred VanVleet a four-year, $114MM extension prior to the season and it was never formally “rejected,” a source told Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca (Twitter link). Instead, the two sides mutually decided to wait, with no specific deadline set.

Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports was the first to report the Raptors’ extension offer. VanVleet can become a free agent this summer if he declines his $22,824,074 option.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Joel Embiid missed his third consecutive game on Sunday afternoon due to sore left foot. The Sixers cruised past the Pistons without their star center and they’re not concerned about the injury, as Embiid is showing progress, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets.
  • Celtics center Robert Williams has been on a minutes restriction, between 17-22 minutes, since returning from a knee injury. The restriction has apparently been lifted and Williams says he’s ready to play more, Jared Weiss of The Athletic writes. “I’m here for whatever. Obviously, they’re trying to be careful and make the smart decision. If the guys are out there rolling, they’re rolling,” Williams said. “I enjoy playing the game. Coming off the bench, I feel like I’ve been able to be decisive on where we need to insert energy.”
  • Nets big man Nic Claxton believes the team already has all the pieces in place to win a championship, according to Sharif Phillips-Keaton of Yahoo Sports. “Everybody, especially earlier in the season, ‘Oh, they need this, they need a big, they need that,’ but we have everything we need when everybody is on the court, locked in, and we’re all scrambling, playing hard,” he said.

Celtics Notes: Brogdon, G. Williams, Stevens, Smart, R. Williams

In an interview with Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston, Celtics guard Malcolm Brogdon says he isn’t interested in the Sixth Man of the Year award (Twitter video link).

I really don’t care about that award at all. I really want to win with this team — I came here to win a championship, to put up banner 18. And that accolade really means nothing. I want to win,” he said.

Brogdon, acquired in offseason trade with Indiana, has a strong case for the award, even if he doesn’t care about it. Through 27 games (24.1 MPG), he’s averaging 14.0 PPG, 4.1 RPG and 3.8 APG on an excellent .482/.451/.855 shooting slash line.

Here’s more on the Celtics:

  • The Celtics have hit some adversity for the first time in 2022/23, dropping five of their past seven games, including a lackluster performance on Wednesday against Indiana, when Boston trailed by 28 at halftime. As Jay King of The Athletic writes, the poor stretch seems like a “meaningful moment” to see how the team responds. Forward Grant Williams agrees. “We can let it derail our season,” Williams said, “or we can let it shift and make us understand where we’re trying to be and allow us to zone back in. Because in a month like this, where you’re approaching January in midseason, you can easily take your foot off the gas and step back. But for a team to be great, for a team to be special, for a team to do what we want to do, you can’t do that.” For what it’s worth, the Celtics beat Minnesota on Friday, recapturing the No. 1 seed in the East after the Bucks lost to the Nets.
  • President of basketball operations Brad Stevens says he will continue to evaluate the roster and make changes if needed ahead of the trade deadline, writes Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe (subscriber link). “Listen, we want to win, there’s no question about it. We have a really good team and hopefully we are playing great over the next couple of months, but we’ll evaluate that and we’ll make decisions, right or wrong, we think may give us the best chance at winning,” Stevens said.
  • Stevens also gave a strong endorsement for interim head coach Joe Mazzulla, Washburn adds in the same story. “It’s been really good,” Stevens said of Mazzulla’s job performance. “Looking at where we started from the start of training camp, the leadership, the organization, the way that everybody embraced him, he’s very open to people to the different ideas that they have, maybe too open sometimes, he’s been great.”
  • Guard Marcus Smart (non-COVID illness) returned to the lineup on Friday after missing Wednesday’s game, but big man Robert Williams was ill and ruled out, tweets Jared Weiss of The Athletic. Williams just made his season debut last week after offseason knee surgery, so having him out of the lineup again so soon obviously isn’t ideal. Still, there’s plenty of time left for him to get acclimated ahead of a playoff push.

Celtics Notes: Horford, Tatum, Williams

Celtics center Al Horford has been fined $25K by the NBA for making “unnecessary and excessive” contact with Magic center Moritz Wagner, the league announced today in a press release (Twitter link). Horford threw an elbow to Wagner’s groin during the third quarter of Orlando’s upset win in Boston on Friday night, resulting in a Flagrant 2 foul and Horford’s ejection.

Besides costing him the rest of Friday’s game, the incident has now taken a small chunk out of Horford’s pay check. However, he won’t face a suspension as a result of the play, which can be viewed right here.

Here’s more on the Celtics:

  • Celtics forward Jayson Tatum has been ruled out for the Celtics’ rematch vs. Orlando on Sunday due to personal reasons, tweets Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe.
  • Prior to Robert Williams‘ season debut on Friday, his teammates spoke about how getting the big man back will benefit the club going forward, as Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston writes. “We got the No. 1 offense and we’re playing well on that end, obviously our defense has slacked a little bit, but we’re back up there, getting there,” Marcus Smart said. “With adding him, it’s only going to push us back over the top. We know the type of defender that Rob is, the type of player that Rob is, offensive player, the threat that he poses on defenses.”
  • Although the final score in Williams’ return wasn’t ideal, his reintegration into the rotation showed a path for the team to reach its full potential, Forsberg writes in another story for NBC Sports Boston. As Forsberg observes, besides helping improve Boston’s defense, Williams also gives the team its strongest finisher at the rim on offense — the Celtics ranked 29th in dunks entering Friday’s game, but Williams had four in 18 minutes in his first game back.

Atlantic Notes: Harden, Harris, Sixers, R. Williams, Raptors

James Harden says he was at a “low point” after the Sixers were eliminated in last season’s playoffs by the Heat. Being traded twice in two seasons, dealing with significant injuries, and a couple of tough playoff losses left him “drained and deflated,” according to Yaron Weitzman of FoxSports.com.

The whole two years was a low point. I’ve never really had to deal with something like that,” Harden told Weitzman recently. “My body, mentally, physically … It was a lot going on. I mean, basketball is everything to me.”

The former MVP guard discussed a number of topics with Weitzman, including his reluctance to do interviews (“People will take the smallest thing that I say and basically screw it up and then it becomes a problem“), his desire to have his career be remembered in a positive light (“I’m one of the people that changed the game of basketball. Honestly, the only thing that I’m missing is a championship“), his offseason work to avoid future injuries, acclimating with the Sixers, adjusting his game as he gets older and plays alongside another ball-dominant star in Joel Embiid, and his relationship with the back-to-back MVP runner-up, among others.

When asked about his struggles in playoff elimination games, Harden admits his results have been mixed — but says it’s not entirely on him.

I’ve had a few bad games in close-out games. Not all of them have been bad,” he said. “Quite frankly, a lot of the times our team wasn’t good enough to compete for championships, if you want to be honest. There’s only so much I can do.”

Weitzman’s feature is worth checking out in full if you’re interested in Harden’s career.

Here’s more from the Atlantic:

  • Sixers forward Tobias Harris was ruled out for Friday’s victory over the Warriors due to back pain, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. It was Harris’ third missed game of the season, and it’s unclear what his status is going forward.
  • In another story for The Philadelphia Inquirer, Pompey writes that the city’s Chinatown residents continue to be adamantly opposed to the Sixers‘ arena proposal, and recently voiced their displeasure at a contentious meeting. “People are very frustrated about the developer continuing to promote their proposal without thinking about Chinatown people’s anger,” said Wei Chen, the civic engagement director of AAU.
  • Celtics big man Robert Williams made his 2022/23 season debut in Friday’s loss to Orlando. As Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe relays (via Twitter), Williams admits he was a little nervous before the game. I felt great. The nerves were getting me pretty bad before the game. We (bleeping) lost. We gotta bounce back from that,” he said.
  • The Raptors have fallen to 13-16 after dropping Friday’s nail-biter to the Nets. According to Doug Smith of The Toronto Star, the team’s front office is displeased with the up-and-down start to the season, and are keeping a close eye on how players respond while evaluating the roster ahead of February’s trade deadline.

Robert Williams Expected To Make Season Debut On Friday

Celtics big man Robert Williams is targeting Friday’s home game against Orlando for his 2022/23 season debut, according to reports from Shams Charania of The Athletic and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter links).

The 25-year-old had arthroscopic surgery in late September to remove loose bodies from his left knee and to address swelling in that knee. The decision was made for Williams to undergo the procedure when he began his ramp-up process and experienced some discomfort in the knee.

Williams initially underwent surgery on the knee in March after tearing his meniscus.

He was able to return to the court less than a month later and played a part in the Celtics’ run to the NBA Finals, though he wasn’t at 100% in the postseason. The forward/center sat out five games in the second and third rounds of the playoffs and reportedly required extensive treatment as he dealt with fluid build-up.

Williams enjoyed a breakout season in ’21/22, establishing new career highs in PPG (10.0), RPG (9.6), BPG (2.2), games played and started (61), field goal percentage (73.6%), and several other categories. He also helped anchor the NBA’s top defense and was named to the All-Defensive Second Team.

Even without one of their best interior players, the Celtics haven’t missed a beat in ’22/23, sporting the league’s best record (22-7), best net rating (+7.0), and the top offensive rating (118.1). However, their defense has fallen from No. 1 to No. 8, and Williams should help improve that figure.

As Jared Weiss of The Athletic notes (via Twitter), Williams and fellow big man Al Horford are both officially listed as questionable for Friday’s contest. Horford and his wife recently had a baby, which is why he has been inactive since clearing the health and safety protocols — he has missed the past five games.

Atlantic Notes: O. Porter, Achiuwa, R. Williams, Nets, Warren

Raptors forward Otto Porter Jr. is scheduled to meet next week with a specialist about his dislocated toe, head coach Nick Nurse said on Friday (Twitter link via Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca). The hope is that the appointment will bring some good news on Porter’s potential return to action — he has been sidelined since November 14 due to the injury and still isn’t doing any on-court work.

Meanwhile, Raptors big man Precious Achiuwa is targeting late December for his return to the court, Grange adds. Achiuwa has been on the shelf since November 9 after sustaining partial ligament tears in his right ankle.

Here are a few more notes from around the Atlantic:

  • Despite some speculation that he could make his season debut on Saturday vs. Golden State, Celtics big man Robert Williams has been listed as out on the team’s official injury report, tweets Anthony Slater of The Athletic. Speaking to reporters on Friday, Williams repeatedly referred to himself as “day-to-day” and didn’t rule out the possibility of returning from his knee injury during Boston’s current West Coast road trip, which continues in Los Angeles on Monday (vs. the Clippers) and Tuesday (vs. the Lakers).
  • Within a look at the Nets‘ rebounding struggles, Brian Lewis of The New York Post (subscriber link) cites two sources – NBA analyst Stan Van Gundy and a veteran Eastern Conference executive – who believe the club needs to add another big man to address the issue. “They need help,” the Eastern Conference exec told Lewis. “They absolutely need another big.”
  • Kevin Durant has liked what he’s seen so far from teammate T.J. Warren, who scored 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting while chipping in three assists and a pair of steals on Friday in his best game since joining the Nets. “We’re over there on the bench saying like, man, he just finds his way to the basketball, to the rim a lot, cuts, he just feels like he’s in the right position on the offensive side of the ball. And defensively, he’s good at getting into the ball, creating turnovers,” Durant said, according to Lewis. “So yeah, I mean he looked good. It’s going to get even better as he gets more comfortable and gets his legs up under him.”

Injury Notes: Lakers, Conley, R. Williams, MPJ, Wesley, T. Davis

The Lakers should have their two superstars back on Friday night in Philadelphia. LeBron James missed Wednesday’s game in Toronto to rest his sore right ankle, but he’ll be available on Friday, sources tell Dave McMenamin of ESPN (Twitter link). Anthony Davis, who left Tuesday’s game in Cleveland with a non-COVID illness and remained out on Wednesday, is listed as probable to play on Friday, McMenamin adds.

Meanwhile, in Utah, Jazz guard Mike Conley has been cleared to return, as expected, per Tim MacMahon of ESPN (Twitter link). Sidelined since November 19 due to a knee injury, Conley said today that he had already been planning to return tonight, but felt more urgency to get back on the court with Collin Sexton now on the shelf (Twitter link via Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune).

Here are a few more injury-related notes from around the NBA:

  • Speaking today to reporters, Celtics big man Robert Williams declined to offer specifics when asked about when he might make his season debut, repeatedly stating that he’s “day to day.” However, Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe and Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston (Twitter links) believe Williams may be trending toward a Saturday return, noting that head coach Joe Muzzalla couldn’t hold back a smile when asked about the possibility of the center playing in Golden State.
  • There’s still no timeline for the return of Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr., who has missed eight straight games with a left heel injury, head coach Michael Malone said on Thursday. According to Mike Singer of The Denver Post (Twitter link), a TNT report suggested Porter could be back within a week, but Malone said no target date has been conveyed to him.
  • Spurs rookie Blake Wesley, making his way back from an MCL tear, will likely have a stint with the Austin Spurs in the G League before he returns to the NBA team, head coach Gregg Popovich said on Thursday (Twitter link via Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News). Popovich added that Wesley is getting close.
  • Kings guard Terence Davis had hoped to return on Wednesday after missing just one game due to a lower back issue, but he aggravated the injury in practice on Tuesday and is now at risk of missing additional time, writes Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. “It’s frustrating because all I want to do is play basketball,” Davis said.