Grant Williams

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Gordon Hayward pushing Grant Williams to grow defensively

Nick Friar
September 06, 2019 - 3:55 pm
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When the Celtics drafted Grant Williams in the 2019 NBA Draft, he was advertised as a jack of all trades of sorts who needed to improve his three-point shot and could provide versatility on the defensive end.

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He made it a point to get some work in behind the arc at NBA Summer League back in July and he continues to make progress. Right now, the biggest adjustment with his shot is getting accustomed to shooting on the move, not simply spotting up. 

“I feel like I’m doing a good job of getting better every day and (is) something that I try to work on every single day,” Williams said during Tuesday’s Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation event at William Monroe Trotter K-8 School in Dorchester.

Although long-range shooting is the area Williams needed to address most, it’s not been the most challenging aspect of the game he’s working on over the summer.

Williams has been trying to take the next step on the defensive end in his workouts. Given his height and weight, the Celtics might be looking for the rookie to eventually develop into a P.J. Tucker-type. Kevin Durant recently acknowledged the Rockets forward as the player who gives him the toughest time. Tucker is an inch shorter than Williams and weighs right around 10 pounds more than the 20-year-old.

But building toward the next step has forced Williams to get out of his comfort zone and change his approach on defense — which he’s relied on his whole life.

“In college, I typically played kind of conservative, being a guy who played not to get beat and being a guy to contest later,” Williams said. “But now it’s kind of being more pressure-oriented, being a guy that actually impacts the shot, impacts the ball.”

Luckily for Williams, Gordon Hayward has been around all summer. The jump from defending college basketball players to guarding Hayward is a pretty significant one. But it’s the type of challenge Williams wants, and needs, right now. 

“That’s where I would say I hate Gordon but I love him, too. Because you’ll be playing with him, but when I play against him, I hate him,” Williams said. “Because when you’re in college, you don’t realize how talented guys are and how tough shots are made. And guarding Gordon every day and seeing how much work he puts into his craft makes me very fortunate. Because I not only get to learn from him, but I also get to say, ‘Man, how’d he make that?’ And he’s beaten me a couple times and he beat me the one time we played one-on-one. My whole goal is by the time I get done, hopefully, in the next month be able to say I can guard Gordon and I can also beat him one-on-one. That’s the whole mentality right now.”

Hayward also recently sung the praises of the younger guys and has also expressed he’s not holding back with his workout routine. Everything is back to normal.

Williams has no experience playing with Hayward prior to this summer, but he can identify the Celtics wing hasn’t been tentative with his workouts.

“That aggressiveness is back,” Williams said. “You think about a guy that two or three years ago he was a top-25 player in the league for the Utah Jazz as an all-star. He still has that same talent. It was more so, I think, about getting that mindest back and be used to playing again. Having an 82 game season after playing for a whole year is difficult. I feel like he’ll be more prepared. I feel like he’s going to be a guy who leads and also gives a lot for this team.”