CHICAGO — It appeared Jabari Parker would immediately become part of the permanent rotation when he was thrown into the Celtics’ win over the Golden State Warriors less than a day after being signed.
But it seems Parker has been relegated to playing in garbage time, as Celtics coach Brad Stevens acknowledged Friday that Parker’s lack of knowledge of the team’s system has led to him being passed over by Grant Williams and Semi Ojeleye in the rotation. Parker played double-digit minutes in his first five appearances as a Celtic but played just 13 total minutes in the past five games with three DNP-coach’s decision.
While Parker has shown the ability to score and rebound, he has struggled on defense because of a lack of mobility against quicker players. The second overall pick in 2014 has had two anterior cruciate ligament tears in his left knee.
“When we threw him in there, we were also dealing with some guys that were missing,” Stevens said. “He’s still just learning how we play on both ends. He can do some things as far as scoring the ball in certain opportunities, in certain situations. But in the last couple of games, just decided to go with other guys who have been here and experienced in playing together.”
After playing eight minutes Wednesday against Orlando, Parker returned to the Amway Center floor after the game and worked out for 30 additional minutes, taking jumpers and sprinting up and down the floor. After he did not play for Sacramento in its win over the Celtics on March 19, Parker ran laps around the TD Garden floor for 30-plus minutes to keep his conditioning.
A month later, he signed with the Celtics.
“There’s a chance we could see him as a [power forward] or small ball [center],” Stevens said. “[Center] is a real point of concern [against the Bulls].”
Robert Williams out again
As much as the Celtics want center Robert Williams to be ready and impactful for the playoffs, he continues to be felled by injuries. After missing seven games with knee soreness and then playing the past four, Williams was ruled out indefinitely with turf toe Friday and Stevens said he is unsure when the center will return.
The Celtics play two crucial games against Bam Adebayo and the Miami Heat (Sunday and Tuesday) and they could use Williams’s athleticism in that matchup. But it seems unlikely he will play in either game.
“Turf toe is an interesting one because for anybody who’s ever had it, it’s a nuisance,” Stevens said. “It’s a difficult thing to deal with. He’s meeting with specialists and figuring out the best method of attack. It’s one of those things where you can play through but the pain is pretty significant.”
Tristan Thompson (pectoral strain) returned to the starting line after missing Tuesday and Romeo Langford was cleared to return after a brief stint in concussion protocol. All-Star forward Jaylen Brown (ankle) did not make the trip but could return Sunday.
The Celtics will face former teammate Daniel Theis for the second time in the past few weeks and the center/forward has put up about the same numbers with the Bulls as he did in 42 games with Boston.
Theis entered Friday averaging 10 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 1.9 assists in 21 games (12 starts) at about 25 minutes per game. That is approximately the same minutes Theis logged for Boston. And as Stevens did early in the season, Bulls coach Billy Donovan starts a two-big lineup with Theis playing power forward and Nikola Vucevic at center.
“I think just his physicality, his defense, his talk has been really, really good,” Donovan said. “When you move from team to team, that terminology, system, that stuff can take a little time but he’s a very bright, smart guy. But I think he’s done a really good job for us, been incredibly physical and I think he’s getting more and more comfortable playing alongside [Vucevic].”
The difference with Theis is foul calls. He became infamous for piling up fouls early in games because of close calls by officials. In Chicago, Theis is averaging one fewer foul per game. He led the Celtics in fouls during his time in Boston.
“I think he has a good way with how he tries to deal with [officials],” Donovan said. “And I think he can move on to the next play and get ready for whatever is coming next.”
The Bulls were at near full health with Zach LaVine available to play in a second game of a back-to-back. LaVine, the All-Star guard, returned to the lineup Thursday after missing 11 games because of health and safety protocols … Former Celtic Javonte Green has scored 14 total points in 10 games for the Bulls, playing mostly in blowouts … Friday was the first game for fans at United Center, which was at 20 percent capacity, approximately 4,000 fans.