BOSTON (AP) — Boston Celtics boss Danny Ainge was puzzled by all the talk about how Texas A&M forward Robert Williams didn’t work hard enough to make it in the NBA.
“It’s hard to have a `low motor’ and be the defensive player of the year two years in a row in a tough conference,” Ainge said Friday after the news conference to introduce Williams.
Williams was named the Southeastern Conference’s co-defensive player of the year in 2018 after winning the award outright in 2017.
“That’s pretty hard to do if you don’t have the motor,” Ainge said. “But if the motor can get better, that’s an even bigger upside.”
A 6-foot-10, 237-pound native of Oil City, Louisiana, Williams had been considered a lottery pick after his freshman year but he returned to play another season in college. He was projected as an early first-rounder in this year’s draft, but he fell to the Celtics at No. 27 overall.
Williams said his mother believed he needed another year to mature in college. Asked if he regretted not coming out after his freshman year, Williams broke into a wide smile and shook his head to show he wasn’t second-guessing that decision.
“I mean, I’m standing right here,” said Williams, who was assigned the No. 44 that was worn by Ainge during his Celtics playing career. “I feel like I landed in a great place. It’s only up from here.”
Williams arrived in Boston earlier in the week and already has spent a couple of days working out at the team’s new training facility, the Auerbach Center. One of those workouts was at 6:30 a.m. on Friday before the news conference.
Incumbent power forward Al Horford was there to greet him on Wednesday.
“He just gave me the keys to success,” Williams said. “Boston is a place that loves hard work. They love players that give it their all.”
Speaking on the eve of the league’s free agency period, Ainge declined to comment on specific players who might be available but did say it was “unlikely” the team would land a superstar. LeBron James, Chris Paul and Paul George are expected to be free agents, and Kawhi Leonard has asked the Spurs to trade him.
“We explore every trade of certain magnitude or superstar first-ballot Hall of Fame-type player,” Ainge said. “We’re going to take a look and kick the tires and see if there’s something there, but that’s all. I think those things are unlikely.”
A year after a complete offseason overhaul – trading Isaiah Thomas for Kyrie Irving and returning just four players from the team that earned the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference in 2016-17 – Ainge said he doesn’t expect to make a major move.
“We don’t have the need,” Ainge said. “We have really good players and we want to surround them with role players.”