Celtics forward Robert Williams was separated from the team and put into self-isolation after testing positive for COVID-19 when the Celtics returned from their road game against the Heat Jan. 6. The 23-year-old hoped that his case would be asymptomatic, but it was not.
“I woke up in sweats,” Williams said. “One night, I’m going through not being able to sleep, every five seconds I’m pulling the cover off me and putting it back on me. It was kind of tough.”
It is not known how Williams contracted the virus, but he said that his daughter and her mother both tested positive a couple of days before he did. The Celtics were a few days into their four-game road trip at that point.
As part of the NBA’s protocols, in addition to daily testing, players are required to fill out a daily survey that asks, among other things, whether they have come into contact with anyone who has tested positive. It’s unclear whether Williams and his family members were in contact prior to his departure for the road trip.
For the first few days after his diagnosis, Williams said, the Celtics medical staff instructed him to simply rest, drink fluids, and try to eat.
“As the days progressed, I got strength back,” he said. “When I felt like I could move around and do stuff, I did a couple of stretches at home, just trying to stay on top of my conditioning, staying strong a little bit. But for the most part it was just downtime.”
Williams said he underwent a successful cardiac test Monday morning, and on Tuesday he took part in practice with the Celtics for the first time since his diagnosis. His status for Wednesday’s game against the 76ers has not been determined, but coach Brad Stevens said it appears likely that Williams will play.
“I’m feeling great,” Williams said. “Really just happy to be back out here with my guys. The test, it had me down a little bit, flu symptoms. But I’m here, so I can’t complain, man. I’m happy.”
Williams said that his mother recently tested positive too, but that all of his family members who had the virus are now doing well.
Even though Williams was sidelined for nearly two weeks, he missed just three games because the Celtics had three others postponed. He said it was tough to be away from the team, but he was thankful to have such a strong support system.
“Even the players that didn’t test positive, we were all checking in on each other every day within the group text message, just telling people to stay safe, stay healthy, check in on people’s family members,” he said.
Celtics forward Jayson Tatum and guard Carsen Edwards, who tested positive for COVID-19 a few days after Williams, remain out for Wednesday’s game. Stevens hinted that there is a chance Tatum could join the team for the second game of this two-game set against the 76ers Friday.
There was some uncertainty about whether Wednesday’s game would be played at all after Philadelphia’s game in Oklahoma City Sunday was postponed because of the 76ers’ COVID-19 contact tracing. But the Celtics left for Philadelphia Tuesday afternoon, and it appears the games will go on.
With Tatum’s return seemingly approaching, the Celtics’ primary rotation could soon be close to whole for the first time this season. Point guard Kemba Walker made his season debut against the Knicks Sunday after missing the first 11 games with left knee issues, and Stevens said that Walker had no complications afterward and was a full participant in Tuesday’s practice.
“We don’t have a shot if Kemba Walker — if we don’t let him be him,” Stevens said. “And I think that’s really important.
“That’s the great thing about Kemba — when he comes back, he’s going to be everything that he’s always been, and he’s a great encourager of everyone else to continue doing what they’re doing.”