All in all, it’s been a strange NBA postseason for Celtics’ Robert Williams III, who underwent meniscus surgery on his left knee in late March. Because part of the meniscus was removed and not repaired (which takes months to recover from), his original timeline for the return was four to six weeks. Instead, Williams returned for Game 3 against Brooklyn on April 17, a little less than three weeks after surgery.
Since then he has looked spectacular – sometimes. He also had moments where he looked significantly less than 100%. And as we saw, there were many times when the knee just hurt too much to get to the ground and Williams sat out altogether.
Williams missed the final four games of the Milwaukee Conference Semifinals series and Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals against Miami.
But, he told Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes, the Celtics assured him that returning to play would not cause any more knee injuries.
For former Celtics star Isaiah Thomas, who was digging up an uncomfortable piece of team history, he gave a very harsh response, tweeting: “Heard that before lol.”
Isaiah Thomas: “No one gave me no understanding”
Of course there is a lot to unpack. Thomas rose to stardom with the Celtics in 2015-16 when he became an All-Star and improved in 2016-17 when he became an MVP nominee, averaging 28.9 points and 5.9 assists for a team ranked 53rd -29 ended the season and reached the conference finals.
But Thomas injured his hip in March and, according to him, the team described the injury as a “bruised bone” and failed to reveal more damage could be done by continuing to play. He played through the issue and wasn’t finally shut down until Game 3 of the East Finals.
As he explained on last year’s All the Smoke podcast, “The only thing I think they did wrong was not explain to me how bad my injury could be when I play. That was the biggest thing I didn’t like for me. Because nobody gave me a glimpse, ‘okay, you play, that can happen.’”
The problem was compounded by the fact that the Celtics then traded Thomas as part of the Kyrie Irving trade that summer. And on the way to a free hand, the injury meant Thomas never really capitalized on his two brilliant seasons with Boston. Thomas has earned around $33 million in his NBA career. If it wasn’t for the injury, he would have made nearly that amount per season for maybe four or five years.
Williams stopped draining his knee
Williams told Haynes that the process of deflating the knee when it swelled up had to be tedious, so he stopped doing it during the conference finals: “My knee deflated really badly in the last series. I stopped draining 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.”
Haynes then wrote: “Medical staff have assured him that he is at no further risk of the repaired knee deteriorating. It’s all a matter of pain tolerance.”
It should be noted that in April, when there was speculation about Williams’ return, we reported that there were some within the Celtics organization who wanted to be careful with Williams as he has a history of knee problems, particularly his left knee which is annoying the whole year.
The Celtics have a four-year, $48 million extension for Williams next season, which he signed pre-season. He’s not quite in the same situation as Thomas.
“There were some concerned about the pace of his return,” a source told Heavy.com in April. “There’s a long-term investment in the guy and there’s a thought about why rush? Give him time.”