There’s a level of excitement surrounding the Celtics after they drafted Texas A&M center Robert Williams, a physically imposing player with immense defensive potential.
He’s 20, a kid from Vivian, La., who will take some time to adjust to the NBA. But the Celtics walked away from the draft feeling that they got the full worth of the 27th pick in a player who had been projected by many to go in the top 15.
The Celtics introduced Williams Friday at the Auerbach Center, the first official event in their sparkling new Brighton practice facility. The overall theme was that Williams could become a difference-maker, a cornerstone, but it could take some time.
The 6-foot-10-inch Williams will begin practice Sunday with the Celtics’ summer league team and will be one of the featured players when play begins next Friday in Las Vegas.
His journey toward being that pivotal player in the middle, with the ability to change games with his length, athleticism, and skill, is just beginning.
“As I said from the beginning, it’s a great fit,” said Williams, who was 13th in the nation in blocked shots with 2.6 per game last season. “I’m coming into a team that’s competing to be in the Finals. It’s a blessing. With the fans and city behind them, it makes it 10 times better. I feel like I fell in a great place.”
“Fell” may be the appropriate term for Williams, who didn’t work out for teams and didn’t attend the Draft Combine on the advice of his previous representation. Williams then fired his agents, the AMG Group, and hired veteran representative Bill Duffy. He said the change positively affected his draft approach and stabilized the process.
“I’m definitely excited,” he said. “Just getting in that first game to see what it’s like, see the intensity, level the game up. I’ve got no regrets, I’m standing right here.”
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge is excited about Williams’s potential.
Asked what elements he liked, Ainge said, “His size, athleticism, wingspan, jumping ability, shot blocking, rebounding, passing.
“I think he has some real natural instincts with the game, not just an athlete, a very good feel as well. He has a 7-6 wingspan. I think that’s the wingspan Kendrick Perkins had. When you sit there and watch him spread out his wings, yeah, it’s pretty impressive. He plays very long, contests shots, he moves very well.
“Just been around him a few days. He’s a fun kid. He’s young but he’s got a lot of enthusiasm and energy, and I think gives us a shot of energy and excitement this year.
“He’s got a lot of potential, but he’s got to work and we’ve got a culture with great structure and really good examples of how you should do your job.”
Photos from Friday’s news conference: