ATLANTA — Center Robert Williams, who has been sidelined since straining his left hamstring in the Celtics’ March 3 loss to the Nets, is hopeful he will be able to return during the current six-game road trip, but added there is no target date and he will not rush.
“It’s obviously something I want to do, but just trying to check these boxes and make sure it’s straight,” Williams said on Saturday, before the Celtics beat the Hawks, 134-125. “It’s kind of tricky, because you can feel great and then get out there and do one hard move and get the pain back, so just trying to watch it.
“I’m feeling good. I’m starting to pick up stuff on the court as far as running and moving. I’m moving a lot more. Just trying to be cautious. 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 is unsure how he suffered the injury. He noticed the hamstring felt tight when he was running up the court and thought if he kept moving it would loosen up.
“When I got down to the free throw line I looked at the bench and said, ‘I don’t know if it’s bad, but I know I pulled something,’ ” he said.
Williams, who has dealt with several nagging injuries throughout his five-year career, missed the first 29 games of this season while recovering from a maintenance surgery on his left knee in September. He has not played in games on back-to-back nights since returning, but he was generally pleased with his progress as he ramped up ahead of next month’s playoffs.
In 28 games before the injury, Williams averaged 8.4 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks.
Anniversary to remember
Saturday marked the three-year anniversary of the NBA’s shutdown after Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. The Celtics were in Milwaukee preparing for a game against the Bucks the following night when word began to spread.
“I was in the training room with a couple of other guys, and it was crazy,” guard Marcus Smart said. “We were just getting some treatment and watching as it came out, that Rudy had contracted it and it was shutting down. So they sent us home, and it was strange, because we didn’t really know what was going on. And you didn’t know how true everything was.”
Smart tested positive about a week later but was mostly asymptomatic.
Williams remembered seeing rumors of a shutdown while watching ESPN that night. A team group text confirmed it.
“I was scared we weren’t going to get paid anymore,” Williams said.
Good for Shrewsberry
Former Celtics assistant coach Micah Shrewsberry guided Penn State to an upset win over Indiana in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals. The Nittany Lions will face top-seeded Purdue in the championship game Sunday and have not reached the NCAA Tournament since 2011.
Shrewsberry was one of Brad Stevens’s top assistants from 2013-19. He spent two seasons as an assistant at Purdue before being hired as head coach by Penn State in 2021.
Pritchard stays behind
Payton Pritchard (heel) did not travel with the Celtics and coach Joe Mazzulla said he had no update on the guard’s condition. The Hawks were without backup guard Bogdan Bogdanovic (back).
Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @adamhimmelsbach.