Celtics

Here’s why Brad Stevens has kept Celtics big Robert Williams’ minutes down early in season

"We need him to be able to play higher minutes as the season gets later."

The Celtics want to keep Robert Williams healthy. Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Boston Celtics big man Robert Williams rarely receives major minutes, even though he’s shooting over 70 percent from the field this season.

In his last 10 games on the floor, Williams has topped 20 minutes just once, when he played 20:02 against the Nuggets. He sat two games, and only played eight minutes against the Golden State Warriors.

That light workload is by design, according to Celtics coach Brad Stevens. Williams has been dealing with a hip issue. Boston is preemptively trying to keep him off the injury list and wants him available as the season stretches on.

“The hip is not bothering him, but we’re just trying to manage it over the course of the long season so that he’s available more often than not, and then able to peak in minutes late,” Stevens said. “So I guess it’s more of a just be alert to it. Obviously, he had the two games that he sat out because it was bothering him, but we’re just alert to it.”

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Williams has shown some progress this season. He’s a perfect lob target for Boston, with long arms and a huge catch radius. Defensively, Williams isn’t always in position, and he isn’t as mobile laterally as Daniel Theis, but his athleticism makes up some of the difference.

The Celtics have a lot of good big men, but a limited sample size of Williams with Theis (89 possessions) has been very encouraging — the Celtics won those minutes by 30.1 points per 100 possessions, according to Cleaning the Glass.

“We’re in a good position with him from the standpoint that I think he’s getting a lot better, I think he’s doing a lot of good things,” Stevens said. “He makes a big impact on our team. And I think as the season progresses, and this is just another thing that you try to keep in the back of your mind from my seat is like, we need him to be able to play higher minutes as the season gets later.

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“So right now, I guess you would call that managing it appropriately. But certainly, it helps when all three bigs are available.”

This post has been updated to clarify Williams’ health concern.

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