Pregame Post-Ups: Grant Williams Earns Start on Opening Night
Wednesday, Oct. 20 - Celtics at Knicks
Pregame – Grant Williams Earns Starting Spot on Opening Night
Grant Williams made a strong impression on the Celtics’ coaching staff this preseason after coming into training camp slimmed down and ready to roll.
As a result of his hard work, the third-year forward has earned himself a spot in Boston’s starting lineup for its season-opening matchup against the New York Knicks Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.
Williams will start at the power forward position in place of Al Horford, who remains in the NBA’s Health and Safety Protocols after testing positive for COVID-19 just over a week ago.
Celtics head coach Ime Udoka said of Williams prior to the 7:30 p.m. tip-off, “He's been consistent, he’s very versatile, he covers a lot of different areas for us, can guard bigs and smalls, and is a guy that has been here. With him, it’s a matter of being consistent, and he showed us that this preseason and in training camp. And with Al out, he's a guy that does a lot of similar things. He can initiate some offense, shoot the ball, as well as guard multiple positions so, with some of the schemes we're doing defensively, he fits right in.”
As Udoka alluded to, Williams’ longevity and familiarity with the Celtics’ core players should help him in this situation. The 22-year-old played the seventh-most minutes on the team last season, while making nine starts in his 63 appearances. Throughout that time, he made a strong impression on the opposition.
"A guy like Grant Williams, I don’t underestimate," Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau stated Wednesday evening. "I know how good he is.”
Williams also started the last two preseason games in place of Horford, so he’s accustomed to the role.
With that being said, the starting power forward spot is not set in stone beyond Wednesday night’s game. It will likely be a matchup-based role that is dependent on how Udoka wants to attack his opponent on any given night.
“It could change,” said the first-year head coach. “For the time being, like I said, Grant does a lot of things that Al does. But there will be nights where there’s bigs and smalls, so depending on Al’s timeline, we could switch it up until he gets back.”
Fortunately, Horford is trending in a positive direction. Udoka said that the 15-year veteran is feeling good, and just needs to clear the league’s mandated timeline before being cleared to return.
In the meantime, Williams and the rest of Boston’s forwards will try to fill Horford’s shoes to the best of their abilities.
- Taylor Snow