Robert Williams Made Key Request In Return To Boston

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Robert Williams III returned to TD Garden for the first time as a member of the Portland Trail Blazers, but wasn’t welcomed with a video tribute from the Boston Celtics during Sunday evening’s matchup.

Williams, alongside now-Portland teammate Malcolm Brogdon, entered the TD Garden player’s tunnel as Trail Blazers, inactive for a much-anticipated trip to Boston. Just six months ago, Williams was packaged in a trade that helped the Celtics acquire guard Jrue Holiday, ending a sentimental five-year run with the organization — which all started in 2018 when Boston drafted Williams 27th overall in the 2018 NBA Draft out of Texas A&M.

Having spent enough time with Boston to earn a nickname (Time Lord) that stuck with the fan base, Williams qualified for a video tribute given to former players returning for the first time. But that didn’t happen, and the reasoning was that Williams himself requested the Celtics not play a video tribute, according to Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe.

No specific reason for the denial was linked to Williams.

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Williams, 26, was poised to grow into another piece of Boston’s homegrown core, however, injuries hampered that development. Williams had the athleticism, potential and work ethic, yet none of those attributes could grandfather him into untouchable territory with the Celtics. As soon as the front office had the chance to flip Williams for a new-and-improved frontcourt pairing (Holiday and Derrick White), it leaped.

With Boston, Williams was part of a run to the NBA Finals in 2022 along with 56 total playoff appearances in a Celtics uniform.

Following the trade from Boston to Portland, no signs of bad blood or resentment for the Celtics were signaled by Williams.

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“You just realize it’s a business,” Williams told reporters in October, per CLNS Media video. “Obviously coming into another great opportunity, a great team, great guys, great coaching staff. It’s been great energy, it’s been fun since I got here. I’m excited.”

Williams added on the Boston split: “I’m pretty content on knowing it’s a business. I got love for all those guys back there on that side always.”

In debuting with the Trail Blazers, Williams collided with his latest setback — a season-ending right knee surgery, which limited the six-year veteran to just six games (no starts) with Portland. Under contract until 2026, Williams will work to regain strength toward a bounce-back campaign.

Williams will also have another chance at being applauded with a video tribute, if desired, next season as well.

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