Steve Nash had an odd take on Robert Williams' impact for Celtics


Ask anyone who's followed the Celtics this season, and they'll tell you Robert Williams is a game-changer for Boston. But Steve Nash doesn't quite see it that way.

The Nets head coach was asked how Williams -- who appears on track to return to the Celtics' lineup Saturday night for Game 3 in Brooklyn -- may change the complexion of this first-round NBA playoff series.

"Well, he’s just a long, versatile defender who blocks shots," Nash told reporters Saturday. "So, it doesn’t change anything they're doing. They just add a player who is exceptional at protecting the basket and blocking shots."

Forsberg: What Celtics should expect from Robert Williams in return

Nash is correct in one sense; Williams was one of the league's premier shot-blockers this season (2.2 blocks per game). But the head coach's assessment of Williams also feels a bit limiting, and his notion that Williams' return "doesn't change" what the Celtics do on defense isn't really accurate.

Williams excelled in a "free safety" role for Boston's No. 1 defense prior to his left meniscus injury on March 27, often matching up on guards but switching off them to meet opponents at the rim. While Al Horford, Daniel Theis and Grant Williams have performed admirably in Time Lord's absence (particularly Horford), the Celtics are a vastly better defensive team with Robert Williams on the court.

Case in point: Boston's original starting five featuring Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Horford and Williams boasted an incredible plus-24.3 net rating in 443 minutes together this season while limiting opponents to 97.0 points per 100 possessions.

Williams also should give the Celtics a boost on the boards, while his presence as an elite lob threat gives Boston's offense another dimension.

Nash likely meant his comments about Williams as a compliment, noting that the Celtics' defense is already strong without him. But Time Lord is much more than a shot-blocker for Boston, and he'll be eager to prove that on the court in Game 3.

Coverage on NBC Sports Boston starts at 6:30 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, taking you up to tipoff at 7:30 p.m.

Note: Games 3-6 of the Brooklyn Nets-Boston Celtics series will be aired exclusively on NBC Sports Boston and can also be streamed on or with the MyTeams App, which you can download below.

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