Robert Williams took a big step forward with the Celtics’ summer league team
LAS VEGAS — This was a significant summer league for Celtics second-year center Robert Williams, who received extensive playing time at this level for the first time in his brief NBA career.
The most playing time he’s received is with G League Maine. And there were times with the Celtics last season when he missed games with an assortment of nagging injuries. And he was even limited to one game during last year’s summer league because of a knee injury.
He came out of Las Vegas healthy and ready to take the next step. He’s projected to be the backup or third center depending on whether coach Brad Stevens decides to play Daniel Theis and Vincent Poirier.
“This is the most he’s played all season,” Celtics summer league coach Scott Morrison said. “He hung in there a couple of times where he was banged up and he fought through it and I thought showed well for himself in terms of his toughness and durability.
“Making sure he can play every day was the first step. Step two was he showed some passing, some rebounding ability that’s going to be key for our team this year.”
Williams finished the summer league averaging 9 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 1.8 blocked in 19 minutes per game. His points were scored at the rim or the free throw line. He has yet to develop a dependable midrange jumper.
“I think he still has to focus on being a better roller with his length and leaping ability, that’s got to be something he can do well to be a threat offensively,” Morrison said. “But on the counterpoint, I would say his passing and spacing and basketball IQ on the offensive side of the ball has really improved. We’ve just got to get that motor going more off pick-and-rolls and then he’ll be a real threat.
“With his skill set, you put him down in the dunker’s spot and he’s a vertical spacer so he does that and catches and finishes, and he showed this week he can pass a little bit. So maybe we can run the ball a little more through him than we had planned.”
The Celtics finished their summer league at 4-1 and the three draft picks who played got extensive experience, including forward Grant Williams, who finished with a 13-point average with 6 rebounds and 1.8 assists.
“I just improved, understood personnel a little better,” Williams said. “We learned a lot of concepts offensively and we’ve just got to carry that over to the season. I had a pretty good grasp of the [offensive] system from the get-go but [summer league] was beneficial because it allowed my other teammates and myself to learn each other a little bit more. I think we all did a good job of understanding what we wanted and how we wanted to play and what we were actually going to run.
“We grew because we learned a little bit about each other, what guys like, where guys can knock shots down and we’ll see how it keeps going.”
Williams said he plans to spend a lot of the rest of the summer at the Celtics practice facility.
“Just get back in the gym and keep trying to improve and understand it’s going to be a long season,” he said. “So being efficient and maybe not killing my body too much. Hopefully making an impact from a get-go.”
Guard Carsen Edwards, who led the Celtics with 19.4 points per game in the five games, said he wants to improve his defense. The Celtics staff believes he can be a plus-defender.
“I’m just trying to be more consistent on the defensive end, try to get stops and make things tough for the other team,” he said. “So that’s really my main focus and I’m just trying to listen to find ways to do that, either if it’s on the ball or off the ball, just being consistent.”
Morrison gave positive reviews to the team after winning its first four games before losing in the quarterfinals to the Memphis Grizzlies, who reached the finals with a win over New Orleans on Sunday.
“Over the course of the three weeks, they really committed to what we were preaching, which is thebasis of Celtics basketball. I think they can leave here with a good sense of what was expected of them as a player, as a professional,” Morrison said. “It was supposed to be a two- or three-week internship and that’s how we approached it. I’d like to feel like they all passed with flying colors.
“Just the guys that are going to be in Boston in the fall, they’ve had a crash course in what our terminology is, what our actions are, how we space the floor, how we defend. The real level of success or failure in summer league will be shown in the fall when those guys come back and how comfortable and ready they are to play.”