Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
Robert Williams: He was all over the place. This was one of the best games of his career. Just 7 points, but 9 rebounds, 6 assists, 5 blocks, 2 steals, and no turnovers.
“He did a good job,” Stevens said after the game. “I don’t think it’s the biggest surprise that scoring opportunities may not be there as much in the starting lineup just because you’re playing against the best players. But I thought he did a great job impacting the game with his rebounding and his passing, and he certainly is a threat down there at the rim.”
Boston Sports Journal: BSJ Game Report: Celtics 122, Bucks 114 – 3-point barrage fuels another reason to have hope
Tatum took over in the scoring department, but Williams was the star in every other category. […] He was +19 and undoubtedly the best defensive player on the floor. […]
Now that Daniel Theis is no longer in the picture, we can expect Williams to get his fair share of minutes from here on out. Even when Tristan Thompson returns to the lineup, Time Lord has done enough this season to show he belongs in the starting five.
NBC Sports Boston: Time Lord thrives in starting role for C’s vs. Bucks
When Isaiah Thomas joined the Celtics in a mid-season trade, he was known around the league as a dynamic sixth-man. In Boston, IT came off the bench for the remainder of that first season and playoffs. Then four games into the next season, Marcus Smart was unavailable, so the Little Guy replaced him in the starting lineup. He never left it, and very nearly won MVP.
I’m not saying Rob Williams will become an MVP candidate, but for the past couple of months, the rumble has been growing louder: “Start Timelord!” Last night, Brad really had no one else he could call on, so Rob got the call by default. It may be the best decision the coach has made all year.
Rob’s energy was infectious. He played hard, so everyone else played hard, which paid off with a win that wasn’t as close as the 122-114 final would indicate. This wasn’t a surprise. Rob’s recent performances have been eye-opening, especially as his playing time has increased.
Just halfway through the third quarter, Williams already had reached a vaunted 5 x 4 with at least five points, rebounds, assists and blocks on the night, joining Larry Bird, Paul Pierce, Robert Parish, Al Horford and Pervis Ellison as the only players to do so in franchise history, per Sportradar. If the loose ball he deflected on a Jrue Holiday drive late in the first quarter had pinged his way as it bounced around randomly, he would have pulled off the first 5 x 5 with steals in franchise history.
In the timing-is-everything department, the Celtics have shown interest in Andre Drummond, the hulking center who just became a free agent. Drummond’s name has often been mentioned by people who thought the Cs needed a bigger big man than they had in Theis. But now that we’ve seen what Williams can do, the question becomes: Is signing Drummond necessary, or is Rob actually the big they’ve needed all along?
Williams was an imposing defensive presence in his first start of the season, piling up five blocks and two steals over his 27 minutes, captaining a Boston defense that had been hapless (27th in NBA) since the All-Star Break. […]
“I feel like I did what I’m put out there to do,” Williams said. “I feel like I exerted a lot of energy with me and my teammates. That’s my job. That’s what it’s about.”
Whether that’s enough to earn him the job for the long haul remains to be seen but the Celtics starting five played their best game of road basketball in months on Friday night. Consistency is the next step for Williams and the rest of the roster but the case for developing Williams with the starters got stronger on Friday night, no matter who ends up in a Celtic uniform off the buyout market.
Drummond will probably go where he can get minutes and thinks he can contend for a title. He might not choose Boston, but it shouldn’t matter. If Rob can average 27-30 minutes a game and continue to show so much ability, he might be the exact difference-maker Boston needs on both ends of the court.
On Page 2: Trade thoughts
Biggest Bummer Award: Boston salary dumping Daniel Theis
OK, let’s close on a down note, with the biggest bummer of the trade deadline: Boston following up the trade for Fournier (a good one!) by salary-dumping starting center Daniel Theis to Chicago to get under the luxury tax.
Here we see the ghost of a previous bad decision, the one to use their full midlevel exception on a two-year deal for Tristan Thompson even though they already had two rotation-caliber centers. That also corresponds to what Boston didn’t do: Use the same money to sign another wing. As a result, the Celtics’ backup perimeter have players killed them all season, necessitating the trade for Fournier. Meanwhile, with no trade market for Thompson, they had to dump Theis instead. (Side note: Is Theis for Mo Wagner the first German-for-German swap in league annals?)
This, from John Hollinger, said a lot of what I was thinking after hearing the bad news about Theis. If only Tristan could’ve been the one to go. Thompson night be the better rebounder with the more accomplished career, but Theis is a better shooter and defender.
Theis came to the Celtics as a low-cost, low-risk addition who developed into a valuable reserve and then an undersized, underappreciated, but capable starting center. It’s a shame that the addition of Evan Fournier started a ripple effect that resulted in Theis being lost as a salary dump. (Much the same as when Aron Baynes was traded to open cap space to sign Kemba Walker.)
In hindsight, it’s also a shame that Theis’ final play as a Celtic – the buzzer-beater shot that would’ve beaten the Bucks – didn’t drop. That would’ve been a memorable ending for a good dude.
One more interesting thought from Hollinger (confirming what we mentioned above):
Below the radar and looking on the bright side, you can see how Boston’s moves might reveal some of the thinking about its rotation for the rest of the year. You can’t play Jeff Teague over Payton Pritchard if Teague is in Orlando, and you can’t play Theis over Robert Williams if Theis is in Chicago.
Last point on trades: for several weeks, Harrison Barnes was the preferred target of many Celtics fans and media. However, Sacramento wasn’t interested in giving him up, and if they had been, the asking price would have been higher than Teague and two second-rounders.
Getting the more-affordable Fournier was a good alternative, because he and Barnes are similar: both age 28, about the same size, in their ninth season, and with closely comparable statistics.
Celtics fans are eager to see what Fournier can do with minutes that have previously gone to Semi Ojeleye and Javonte Green. Expect a major upgrade.
And, finally… Farewell, Theis-man
Speaking of Theis, he tweeted warm farewell wishes to Celtics fans as he departed for Chicago.
Over the last 4 years Boston became home for me and my family ! I’m grateful for all wins, losses and moments but most important for people I met and friends I found for life ! Boston will always have a place in my heart and I will never forget my time as a Celtic ! pic.twitter.com/DVFV3BFac4
— Daniel Theis (@dtheis10) March 26, 2021
The Rest of the Links: