The Time Lord returns. Shams Charania from The Athletic reported that Boston Celtics center Robert Williams III is expected to make his long-awaited season debut after missing the first 29 games of the season with a knee injury.
The Celtics listed Williams as questionable on the injury list for Friday’s night game against the Orlando Magic. The Celtics (22-7) are -13 favorites over the Magic (9-20), who have a four-game winning streak on the line. Last weekend, the Magic were the worst team in the Eastern Conference with only five wins, but they ended a nine-game losing streak and won four games in a row.
Williams is regarded as one of the best defensive centers in the NBA. He anchored the Celtics defense last season as a versatile chameleon who could defend guards and big men with ease. He was one of the betting favorites to win the 2022 NBA Defensive Player of the Year, but he was edged out by teammate Marcus Smart.
The Celtics’ high-octane offense propelled the highest-scoring team to the best record in the NBA this season. However, their defense took a step back in the first quarter of the season without Williams intimidating opponents.
The Celtics are the consensus favorite to win the 2022-23 NBA championship. You can back the Celtics to win the title at +310 odds at DraftKings. The Celtics are +150 odds to win the Eastern Conference crown in back-to-back seasons as the outright betting favorite. In divisional odds, the Celtics are the biggest favorite on DraftKings’ NBA futures board at -2000 odds to win the Atlantic Division.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) December 15, 2022
Time Lord Debuts vs. Magic
Williams suffered a knee injury last season, but it required multiple surgeries. He missed time at the end of last season after the first surgery. Even though he was slowed down in the postseason and missed a couple of games due to swelling, he was in integral part of the Celtics’ playoff run. With Williams on the court, the Celtics held opponents to 6.5 fewer points per possession.
Williams had a second surgery this offseason, but he missed nearly two months of the regular season while rehabbing his knee. The Celtics were the best team in the NBA this season without Williams, so fans cannot wait to see what they can do with the Time Lord back in the lineup and harassing opposing offenses.
If you thought the Celtics were awesome this season, just wait until the Time Lord returns,” said Celtics superfan Bill Simmons on a recent episode of The Bills Simmons Podcast.
Williams averaged 10.0 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks per game last season, but he was one of the premier defenders in the NBA. Many purists thought Williams should’ve won the Defensive Player of the Year due to his dominance in the paint.
Smart won the prestigious award instead of his teammate, and became the first guard in two decades to win the Defensive Player of the Year, which is an award typically dominated by big men and rim protectors.
Al Horford Still Sidelined
The Celtics struggled on a recent road trip out west, but they did not have Al Horford in the lineup. He filled in for Williams at center in the first quarter of the season averaging 10.2 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game.
Horford shoots 46.6% from 3-point range, so teams cannot let their center sag off and clog the lane because Horford is a legit deep threat.
Horford is one of those veterans that doesn’t always stuff the stat sheet on a nightly basis, but most of his contributions are intangibles that do not show up in the boxscore. You never realize the importance of a veteran like Horford until he’s injured and not in the lineup.
The Celtics were exposed without Horford in back-to-back losses against the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers, before the stole a victory against the Los Angeles Lakers in overtime on Tuesday.
Horford missed multiple games due to personal reasons, and the Celtics hope he can return as soon as possible. With Horford and Williams in the same lineup, the Celtics finally get back their starting five that won the Eastern Conference title and secured a trip to the 2022 NBA Finals.
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