Robert Williams reportedly remains right on schedule for his return

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Williams was given an 8-to-12-week timeframe to return to basketball activities.

Robert Williams hasn’t played yet this season. Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

When Robert Williams underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in late September, there was some pessimism about his return date because the timeline for his return was pushed from 4-to-6 weeks to 8-to-12 weeks.

However, Williams remains on schedule to return to basketball activities in the 8-to-12-week frame, The Boston Globe’s Adam Himmelsbach reported. That doesn’t necessarily mean that Williams will be playing games before the 12 weeks are up because the timeline pertains to just returning to basketball activities, but Friday marked the six-week mark since he underwent surgery.

Williams also reportedly received a platelet-rich plasma injection in his left knee, the same knee he suffered a torn meniscus in last season, on Oct. 17.

The Celtics would certainly welcome the news that Williams remains on schedule to return as their defense hasn’t been as stout in the young season as it was last season, when they were the best unit in the league. Boston’s 114.1 defensive rating ranks 20th in the league through its first eight games of the season.

Despite their mediocre defensive rating to open the season, Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla noted that his team made some strides defensively ahead of Friday’s game against the Bulls. The Celtics had a 100.5 defensive rating between their win over the Wizards on Sunday and their loss to the Cavaliers on Wednesday, which is better than the 106.2 defensive rating they had last season.

“We’re number one in defense, by the way, [in the] last two games,” Mazzulla said jokingly. “No one’s asked about that.”

The Celtics’ defense took a bit of a step back though on Friday in their 123-119 win over the Bulls, posting a 113.9 defensive rating in that game while Chicago made 51.8 percent of its shots from the field.

Still, Mazzulla pleaded for some patience to allow the defense to grow as the season goes along.

“Defense is something that comes with time,” Mazzulla said. “I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, it’s not an effort issue. Our guys play really, really hard, and they want to win. It’s a matter of reestablishing habits. Reestablishing standards. And we have moments where we’re not great defensively, where we let go of the rope a little bit, but I love the steps that we’ve taken over the last two, three games.”

The patience Mazzulla’s pleading for could just be a signal to wait for Williams’s return to action. The center was second in blocks per game last season (2.2), fourth in defensive box plus/minus (3.1), and first in defensive rating (102.4). The backup big men who’ve seen minutes likely as a result of Williams’s injury (Noah Vonleh, Blake Griffin, and Luke Kornet) actually hold the three-best individual defensive ratings on the Celtics through the first eight games (Vonleh 110, Griffin 111, Kornet 111). Al Horford, who started alongside Williams in the double big lineup, has a 116 defensive rating so far this season, which is the third-lowest among the Celtics’ regular rotation players (Marcus Smart and Malcolm Brogdon are lower).

Boston will take the court again on Saturday night when it faces the Knicks in New York. The Celtics will be without Horford, who is dealing with back stiffness following Friday’s win.

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