Timberwolves Celtics Basketball

The Celtics could get a boost in Game 3 of their first-round series against the Nets with the return of center Robert Williams III. Steven Senne/Associated Press

Robert Williams III “intends to return” when the Celtics take on the Nets in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference first-round series Saturday night, barring any setbacks, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

While Williams is expected to be limited in his first game back, Wojnarowski reports that, as long as those minutes go smoothly, he’ll shoulder a heavier workload for Game 4.

That’s welcome news for the Celtics and Williams, who hasn’t played since March 27. While there was initial worry that Williams could miss the rest of the season after he tore his meniscus, his return appears imminent.

Williams traveled with the team to Brooklyn for Games 3 and 4 as the Celtics hold the 2-0 series lead. Game 3 is at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Barclays Center, while Game 4 is slated for 7 p.m. Monday.

The timeline appears aggressive at first glance, as Williams had meniscus surgery a little less than four weeks ago.

The Celtics initially said he would need a 4- to 6-week recovery, but there were murmurs of optimism that Williams could return even sooner than that. If Williams does play in Game 3, it’ll be a few days before that four-week mark since his surgery.


Boston Coach Ime Udoka said Thursday that Williams has had no setbacks, which was a positive sign. Williams has also upped his level of the rehab process, Udoka said, with some on-court work. Wojnarowski
reported that Williams had consecutive days of 5-on-5 practice, which set the stage for a potential Game 3 return.

BEN SIMMONS, meanwhile, hopes to play for Brooklyn sometime in the first round, though he probably won’t be ready for Game 3.

Simmons said Game 4 is more likely.

“I think it’s reasonable to think that, but it’s day to day,” Simmons said after practice Friday. “I can’t tell you definitely Game 4, Game 3. If I could play right now, I’d be on the court.”

Simmons didn’t play for the Philadelphia 76ers this season, then injured his back after being traded to the Nets in February. He has only recently begun doing more than just individual work while dealing with a herniated disk.

Simmons expects to get another workout Saturday, and then a determination will be made if he’s ready to jump in Monday – when the Nets could be facing elimination.


“I don’t want to put too much on Ben. He hasn’t played basketball in this environment for a long time, so it’d be amazing to have him back and to incorporate him into our group on the floor,” Nets Coach Steve Nash said. “Obviously, we know he gives us size and speed and playmaking and defense and rebounding and all those things that are helpful, but we’ll just have to see how he progresses and not put too much pressure on him coming back.”

Simmons hasn’t played in a game since last June 20, when the 76ers lost Game 7 at home to Atlanta in the second round. He requested a trade afterward and then didn’t play for the 76ers this season, citing mental health concerns.

He won’t make any predictions about how well he can play after the layoff, but he insists he wants to try, even with so much rust at such an important time.

“Body-wise, once my body is ready, I want to be able to help this team win. That’s what I’m here for, so I mean, it is what it is,” Simmons said. “I’ve got to get on the floor and help this team win. I’ve been traded to the Brooklyn Nets and that’s what they need me to do.”

Even with a limited offensive game, Simmons would be a help to the Nets because of what he does on the other side. He was voted to the All-Defensive first team each of the last two seasons and could take some turns guarding Celtics stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

Simmons said his basketball IQ can help him fit in with a team he hasn’t even fully practiced with, and the Nets hope his body will allow that. Teammate Patty Mills, a fellow Australian, said it was hard to compare the circumstances of Simmons’ debut with anything else he could recall.

“But I mean, we’ve been through some pretty crazy stuff this year,” Mills said. “I don’t think this is any different to that and it’s one of those things where we’re here and this is what we have, so let’s make the most of it.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.