BOSTON — Robert Williams III has his good days and his bad days.
The Boston Celtics big man underwent surgery on March 30 after tearing a meniscus in his left knee. In just under a month, he returned for Game 3 of the opening round series against the Brooklyn Nets.
Since then, he’s been rated questionable before every game he’s played in in the 2022 NBA Playoffs.
Its availability status was not a protective strategy to shake off opposition. Team staff are rightly unsure if he is a matchday option.
Williams III bravely struggles through immense pain.
“I take it honestly on a day-to-day basis,” Williams III told Yahoo Sports. “I’m feeling fine right now and it’s going to hurt quite a bit for the next few hours. I try to take as much as possible from day to day.”
The 24-year-old has had a breakout season. He anchored the top defense in the league at 2.2 blocks per game, ranking fourth in the league, and was named All-Defensive Second Team.
Now that his team is one of the last two and the Golden State Warriors lead 3-2 in the series, Williams III is no longer himself. He hasn’t been around since his return. His postseason minute average is 22.3, seven minutes below his regular season average.
You can see how hard he is struggling as he paces up and down the court. Sometimes he moves his left knee after receiving a bump or when changing direction sharply, and he bends down for a minute in the hope that the pain will subside enough to continue.
He’s made it this far, but he can only go so far. That’s the frustrating part for the defensive star.
“It’s really getting on my nerves,” Williams III told Yahoo Sports. “It’s difficult to deal with. When I’m out there, the adrenaline and the energy take over, so I don’t really think about it during the games, but it certainly bothers me a lot.”
It’s an arduous process between games to get him to a comfort level where the pain is bearable for game days. He calls the existing system “boring” and “repetitive”.
“Icing, deep tissue massages, treatment, wait three or four hours and then start the process over until [it’s time to sleep]’ Williams III told Yahoo Sports. “Usually the same routine. Maybe a little BFR [blood flow restriction training] here and there, but usually the same ritual.”
But that’s not the extent of the effort Williams III put in in the playoffs in uniform.
Williams suffered repeated knee drains during the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
“My knee took a really bad beating in the last series,” Williams III confirmed to Yahoo Sports. “I stopped venting it because I didn’t think there was any point. My knee kept filling up with fluid. So I kind of learned how to use that to be able to play.”
Medical staff have assured him that he will not face any further deterioration of the repaired knee. It’s all a matter of pain tolerance.
“We’ll take what he can give us,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka told Yahoo Sports. “If he can walk, we will monitor him accordingly. If he can’t walk, we understand. Rob is a fighter. That’s why we love him.”
Williams III had his moments in the finals where he’s flying all over the place and blocking shots, and then there are times when he’s limping around.
Some wonder if subjecting your body to so much torture is even worth it, and he has an answer for that.
“S*** we’re trying to win,” Williams III told Yahoo Sports. “It’s crazy. I’m living my dream right now. Of course it would be a lot better if we won, but my whole thing is being responsible for my team. Letting them know I’m here through whatever, and hopefully will be passed the message on to everyone else.”