WALTHAM Injuries have forced Portland, much like the Boston Celtics, to play some younger players sooner rather than later.
Among the young Blazers making the most of his opportunity to play more, has been rookie guard Elliott Williams who missed all of last season with surgery to both of his knees.
But the Boston Celtics won't have to worry about Williams after he suffered a left shoulder injury during Portland's practice at Emerson College on Thursday. He is expected to miss tonight's game in addition to Saturday's matchup at Washington.
Williams has worked his way into the rotation, and has become a player that Portland looks to provide energy and toughness off the bench.
"He's certainly earned the right to get some minutes," Blazers coach Nate McMillan told the (Portland, Ore.) Oregonian. "I think he can play. I like his energy, his scrap, his aggressiveness on both ends of the floor. It's something fresh ... and I like what he's giving us."
While his numbers this season - 3.7 points in 6.2 minutes per game - don't exactly jump out to you, he has averaged 5.2 points in just 7.9 minutes, while shooting 56.4 percent from the field. He was taken by the Blazers with the No. 22 pick in the first round - three spots behind Boston's selection of Avery Bradley.
And Bradley, like Williams, has established himself as a player Celtics coach Doc Rivers can feel good about having in the regular rotation.
It didn't take Bradley long to establish himself as a player who could impact the game with his play defensively. One of the highlights of this season for the C's was their 31-point win over Orlando on Jan. 23, a game in which Bradley completely overwhelmed Magic guard Jameer Nelson with his defense.
Shortly before that breakout performance, Celtics coach Doc Rivers had talked about how rookie E'Twaun Moore had moved ahead of Bradley in the pecking order.
That didn't last long.
Whether he's battling an opponent or fighting for playing time, Bradley continues to be the best up-and-comer on the C's roster this season.
"At the end of the day, I'm going to come in and I'm always going to grind," Bradley said. "And I'm always going to work hard."