Celtics need some Rob Williams insurance

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Training camp hasn’t even started yet, and (even before the Ime Udoka news) the Celtics already have a Big problem: two starting Centers with questionable availability in a conference packing size under the rim.

Defensive standout Robert Williams III will be out at least 4-6 weeks after he undergoes an arthroscopic procedure on his left knee, the joint in which he tore his meniscus at the end of the 2021-22 regular season.

The news broke months after the Celtics announced their other starting Center, veteran Al Horford, would not be playing in back-to-back games this coming season.

Williams’ projected recovery timeframe doesn’t sound alarm bells, but his injury history should. During his tenure in Boston, he’s been sidelined with: a strained groin in 2018, a bruised back in 2019, repeated issues with his left hip in 2019, another injury to his left hip in 2021, turf toe and a sprained toe in 2021, a sprained left ankle in 2021, and a torn meniscus in his left knee in 2022.

This account doesn’t include the times he’s been put on the injury list for a sore knee or illness, or the vascular condition he discovered in both his legs.

Even if the Celtics get Williams back to full health soon after this latest procedure – and that’s Grand Canyon-size IF – they should approach this situation like they have two halves of one starting Big. Because if history is any indication, they’re likely to find themselves in that situation at some point this season.

Boston has made their goal clear: get back to the Finals and finish the job. To get there, they’ll need to thrive in their own conference and navigate a forest of Sequoia-sized Centers in the postseason.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, Bam Adebayo, and Andre Drummond are just a few big trees the Celtics will need to fell. Kevin Durant is no sapling either. Enough with the trees, the reader shouts!

Above all, the Celtics need to start treating Williams like what he is: an incredibly rare, unique talent whose big body and style of play makes him prone to more…treatment challenges…than other players on the roster.

So Boston needs to research some insurance policies for their 24-year-old star. Unfortunately, they may need to bide their time until the trade deadline to find the right fit to actually improve their situation for the length of the season. Brad Stevens didn’t bring in a defensive-minded, young Center following their Finals appearance, and now the market is less favorable to their needs.

They may need to look down the bench at Luke Kornet to eat some minutes early in the season while everyone gets healthy, because the free agents available ahead of the season don’t do much to solve the issues already existent on this roster. Dwight Howard and LaMarcus Aldridge both circle the same age bracket as Horford. Boogie Cousins has never been a dynamic, let alone enthusiastic, defender. Tristan Thompson? Been there, done that. Thanks for the loyalty to the logo, though.

The silver lining could be that by the time February rolls around, Boston’s front office will likely have a better sense of their big men’s health than they do now.

But the Williams conundrum is a complicated situation, and it will require complicated approaches as long as he’s on the roster. He’s irreplaceable, but he’s not always available. Even if he’s back with the Celtics before Christmas, all eyes should be on big men around the league before the trade deadline.