BOSTON—Robert Williams III has his good days and his bad days.
The Boston Celtics big man underwent surgery on March 30 after suffering a torn meniscus in his left knee. He returned to action for Game 3 of the opening-round series against the Brooklyn Nets in just under a month.
Ever since then, he has been listed as questionable leading up to each game he’s participated in the 2022 NBA playoffs.
His availability status has not been a protective strategy to throw off the opposition. Team staffers are legitimately unsure if he will be a go for gamedays.
Williams III is fighting valiantly through immense pain.
“I honestly take it day-by-day,” Williams III told Yahoo Sports. “I can be feeling good right now, and then the next couple of hours it’s pretty sore. I try to take it day-by-day as much as I can.”
The 24-year-old is coming off a breakout season. He anchored the top defense in the league with 2.2 blocks per game, placing him fourth in the league, and he was awarded All-Defensive Second Team.
Now that his team is one of the last two standing and the Golden State Warriors up 3-2 in the series, Williams III is not himself. He hasn’t been since returning. His postseason minutes average is at 22.3, seven minutes below his regular-season average.
You can see how much he’s laboring as he runs up and down the court. At times he’ll agitate that left knee after receiving a bump or when he sharply changes direction, and he’ll bend down for a minute in hopes of the pain subsiding enough to continue on.
He’s made it this far, but he can only go so far. That’s the frustrating part for the defensive star.
“It gets to me a lot,” Williams III told Yahoo Sports. “It’s hard to deal with. When I’m out there, the adrenaline and energy takes over so I don’t really think about it during games, but it for sure gets to me a lot.”
It’s a strenuous process in between games to get him to a comfort level where the pain is tolerable for game days. He calls the system in place “boring” and “repetitive.”
“Icing, deep tissue massages, treatment, wait three or four hours and then start the process all over again until [it’s time to sleep],” Williams III told Yahoo Sports. “Usually that same routine. Maybe a little BFR [blood flow restriction training] here and there, but usually that same ritual.”
But that’s not the extent of the lengths Williams III has gone to be in uniform in the playoffs.
Williams had his knee drained repeatedly during the Eastern Conference finals against the Miami Heat, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
“I was really having my knee drained a lot last series,” Williams III confirmed to Yahoo Sports. “I stopped draining it because there was no point, in my opinion. My knee kept filling back up with fluid. So, I’ve kind of learned how to manage it to be able to play.”
The medical staff has ensured him that he is not at further risk of worsening the repaired knee. It’s all a matter of pain tolerance.
“We’re going to take what he can give us,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka told Yahoo Sports. “If he can go, we’ll monitor him accordingly. If he can’t go, we understand. Rob’s a fighter. That’s why we love him.”
Williams III has had his moments in the Finals when he’s flying all over the place blocking shots, and then there are times he’s hobbling around.
Some question if it’s even worth it to put his body through so much agony, and to that, he has a retort.
“S***, we’re trying to win,” Williams III told Yahoo Sports. “It’s crazy. I’m living my dream right now. Obviously, it would be way better if we win, but my whole thing is accountability for my team. Letting them know I’m here through whatever, and hopefully, the message is relayed to everyone else.”