Time Lord has a new timetable. Robert Williams III is expected to return from a strained left hamstring "within the next week or so," Boston Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla told reporters Wednesday, before their 104-102 win against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Mazzulla said that Williams "looked pretty good" in a workout on Tuesday and his body "responded well" afterward. Separately, in an interview on 98.5 The Sports Hub, Mazzulla said that Williams is "getting a lot better" and will "hopefully return in the next five to seven days."
Williams hurt his hamstring on March 3 during a game against the Brooklyn Nets and hasn't played since. Asked on March 5 how long he'd be out, Mazzulla told reporters, "I think they said maybe 7-10 days or so, but those things can change. It's kind of dependent upon how quickly he can get back to sprinting, I guess, so we just kind of have to see."
On March 11, Williams told the Boston Globe that the injury is "kind of tricky, because you can feel great and then get out there and do one hard move and get the pain back." He said he's hopeful to play on the Celtics' six-game road trip, which concludes next Tuesday in Sacramento, but will only come back when he's ready.
"Just trying to be cautious," Williams told the Globe. "A hamstring is a sensitive thing. I'm just taking the time, not rushing stuff, respecting how the body responds, and also being able to push the body a little bit to get to that level."
Williams has appeared in 28 of Boston's 70 games. He had surgery on his left knee in September, made his season debut on Dec. 16 and has not played in any back-to-backs. When he's on the floor, though, the Celtics are a different team. And Boston has been in a weird place since his hamstring injury.
The night that Williams got hurt, the Celtics blew a 28-point lead against the Nets. Since then, they've had close losses to the New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers and Houston Rockets, and they've beaten the Portland Trail Blazers, Atlanta Hawks and Minnesota Timberwolves. After the Rockets loss, Jaylen Brown told reporters that Boston had exhibited a "lack of effort," played without a "sense of urgency" and needed to "improve defensively." While challenging the team, Brown mentioned Williams' absence.
"We gotta continue to fight for our rim protection," Brown said. "And Rob is not there, so it's like a little bit of a difference. But we gotta still be better than that we've been."
In Williams' 678 minutes, Boston has outscored opponents by 9.9 points per 100 possessions. And in the 297 minutes Williams has played next to Al Horford, the Celtics have scored 118.4 per 100 and surrendered only 103.3 per 100. As a point of reference, the Milwaukee Bucks' league-best defense has allowed 109.7 per 100 this season.
It is a credit to Boston that, despite Williams missing most of the season, only three teams have had a better defense and no team has a better point differential. Lately, however, the cracks have been starting to show. What Williams does as a roamer, a vertical spacer and an offensive rebounder cannot be duplicated by anyone else on the roster. In the playoffs, the Celtics will need him to be as healthy as possible.