Celtics coach Ime Udoka said that center Robert Williams has started three-on-three workouts as he inches closer to returning from his knee injury.
“He’s doing more every day,” Udoka said before Wednesday night’s 114-107 win over the Nets in Game 2. “It’s a comfort level thing with him. The risk is reinjury, swelling or something like that, coming off of surgery. Little bit of pain tolerance and how well his body reacts to upping the level physically. [He’s] doing a little more, getting out there on the court and looking good at times. We ease it up the next day if he has a heavy session.”
Williams tore the meniscus in his left knee during the March 27 win over the Timberwolves and underwent surgery three days later. It was announced then that he would be sidelined for 4-6 weeks. The early end of that timeline could put him in position to return in this first-round series, but Udoka reiterated that the team is not expecting him to face Brooklyn.
“We’re still planning on playing without him,” Udoka said, “but happy with his progress.”
ESPN reported on Wednesday that Nets point guard Ben Simmons could make his season debut as early as Saturday’s Game 3 in Brooklyn. Simmons, who was acquired from the 76ers in February, has been sidelined because of a back injury.
This week, Simmons was cleared for full contact drills for the first time. Udoka said the Celtics will adjust their preparations as needed.
“We’ll start to talk about him as he becomes a possibility,” Udoka said.” Myself, coaching him in the past, and a lot of guys played against him recently in a series, two years ago in the bubble. And Al [Horford] played with him. So a lot of us know him well enough. When it’s time to talk about what he does, I don’t think it’s a problem for our guys. We have a group that’s seen him quite a bit.”
Celtics guard Marcus Smart found out that he had been named the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year on Monday when the team surprised him with a small ceremony that included Hall of Fame point guard Gary Payton, the last guard to win the award, in 1996.
Smart’s teammates erupted when he received the news and then doused him with water.
“I’m super happy for him, well deserved,” guard Payton Pritchard said Wednesday before Game 2. “His whole career he’s been known for that and each and every night he goes out there and guards whoever it is. I feel like it’s a guard league, so it’s about time a guard gets the award. And, I mean, there’s nobody better than Marcus.”
Added guard Derrick White: “He was so deserving of it. I think it’s been a long time coming. But he’s been unbelievable this year. There’s a reason why our defense is No. 1. And he’s leading us, so very deserving. I think you’ll get a couple more, too.”
Coach K in the house
Former Duke men’s coach Mike Krzyzewski attended Game 2 at TD Garden. Krzyzewski, who retired after the Blue Devils lost in the Final Four last month, coached Celtics forward Jayson Tatum and Nets guards Kyrie Irving and Seth Curry at Duke.