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Robert Williams III continues to develop earlier than our eyes


Each Celtics victory this season has usually adopted a near-identical script. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown dazzle on their solution to combining for almost 50 factors if no more. Since he returned, a few of Kemba Walker’s last stat strains will impress whereas others increase a reason behind concern.

However over Boston’s earlier 5 video games, a brand new issue has emerged with rising consistency. Whereas the All-Star duo does their factor and Kemba continues to search out his footing, Robert Williams III has averaged 9.0 factors on 66.7 p.c taking pictures together with 7.2 rebounds, 3.0 assists and a couple of.8 blocks in simply over 20 minutes an evening because the Celtics compiled a 4-1 report throughout that stretch.

Positive sufficient, the development continued in a 134-107 win over the Houston Rockets on Sunday night.

Tatum and Brown mixed for 47 factors. Walker was a pleasant 3-of-7 on threes whereas chipping in six rebounds and 5 assists, however he additionally completed 1-of-4 contained in the arc for 16 factors. And there was Williams as soon as once more, filling up the field rating in restricted minutes with 16 factors on an ideal 7-of-7 taking pictures with 13 rebounds and three blocks in 19 minutes to assist Boston finish a seven-game highway dropping streak.

“Rob has been nice for us,” Brown mentioned of his teammate. “He’s even getting higher as the times are happening.”

The event of Tatum and Brown has all the time been on the forefront of Boston’s long-term plan they usually’re displaying precisely why with their All-Star caliber play this season. Among the many different Celtics children — a listing that continued to develop with annually and non-traded draft decide — it was Williams’ progress chart that garnered probably the most consideration.

It wasn’t that he was considerably higher than these teammates. There’s a cause he fell to the twenty seventh decide of the 2018 NBA Draft. The fascination with Williams was all the time about what he may finally develop into due to all that he had working in his favor earlier than he even needed to tighten his sneakers.

You possibly can’t educate a 7’6’’ wingspan and 40-inch vertical. Maybe a steeper studying curve was in retailer for an excellent athlete now confronted with studying the sport on the highest degree, however these bodily presents provided the kind of tantalizing ceiling no different complimentary Celtic may contact.

After all, by means of his first two seasons, that’s precisely what Williams’ optimistic contributions have been: presents. Surprises sprinkled throughout the season with none concept how far-off the following birthday or vacation was.

Accidents didn’t assist the method. He appeared in simply 61 video games and 671 minutes. However even upon checking right into a contest, Williams by no means made it appear to be availability was the one situation holding him again, averaging 4.7 fouls per-36 minutes in these first two years. If it wasn’t a spoon-fed dunk or a whiffle ball-type block, the sport was nonetheless coming to Williams in a approach that had him misplaced at each ends.

Potential must be nurtured, however there comes some extent the place the participant is taking way over he’s giving. That sentiment was solely aggravated on a Celtics group in pursuit of a title with different succesful bigs on the roster.

Quick ahead to 2021 and the Celtics nonetheless occupy two different bigs in Daniel Theis and Tristan Thompson, the latter signed in some half because of the uncertainty of Williams’ spot within the rotation. However the Timelord’s emergence has compelled Boston’s head coach to tweak his rotation, typically even on the fly.

“I talked to Theis at halftime,” Stevens defined in his postgame presser in Houston after Theis didn’t see the courtroom following a six and a half minute first-quarter stint. “We’re gonna be on this scenario extra now, the place a type of guys isn’t taking part in as a lot as we’re smaller and it gained’t be the identical guys each night time as a result of it’ll be matchup dependant relying on who’s going.”

A comparatively clear invoice of well being has afforded Williams the soundness wanted to construct consistency. He continues to grab it with extra situations of a model that’s incessantly inching in the direction of that peak basketball self.

“He’s getting so much higher. You see that,” Stevens mentioned. “And he’s capable of play a bit bit longer stints than he has prior to now as a result of he performs actually arduous when he’s on the market.”

The per-36 minute fouls are right down to 4.1, a noticeable lower from his first two seasons. With every passing infraction comes the data of what’s wanted to keep away from it, a degree of progress finest showcased by means of the persistence he’s exuded on among the extra time-sensitive blocks he’s swatted.

Williams solely leaves his toes as soon as Anthony Lamb does, thereby eliminating the possibility of being duped into initiating contact in methods he may’ve beforehand fallen for.

Diving to the basket stays the bread-and-butter of Williams’ offensive bundle, but when the pure chaos of a pick-and-roll doesn’t create a gap, he makes himself a goal by carving out house across the basket.

If a teammate decides to launch a shot as an alternative of concentrating on him close to the basket, Williams exhibits no hesitation to go seize the ball off the rim. That want explains the 15 offensive rebounds he’s compiled over his final six outings, together with three in opposition to the Rockets.

It’s one thing terribly completely different with Williams each sport. He’s had a trio of video games with 4 assists throughout this 5-1 stretch. He blocked six pictures in opposition to Brooklyn on Thursday. He turned simply the tenth participant in NBA historical past to attain a minimum of 16 factors and seize 13 rebounds in beneath 20 minutes. Even in opposition to a compromised frontcourt for a group amidst what’s now a 16-game dropping streak, that’s a powerful displaying unbiased of circumstance.

“I simply assume we are able to make it in order that he can play increasingly and extra because the season goes on,” Stevens mentioned, talking extra out of concern of Williams’ earlier damage historical past than hesitation over his readiness.

At this level, Williams is hardly giving his head coach a lot of a selection both approach.