Defense rests on minutes handed out to Bulls rookie Patrick Williams
The fourth overall pick in last month’s NBA Draft is learning on the fly, and while he will get a crash course this weekend against Houston, his regular-season role and minutes remain a mystery.
Of course new Bulls coach Billy Donovan plans to give his prized rookie important minutes Friday night in the preseason opener against the Rockets at the United Center.
But what about when the regular season begins in just a few weeks?
For 19-year-old forward Patrick Williams, everything is a crash course, and minutes given will be minutes earned.
“I think it’s such a unique situation for rookies today [during the pandemic] because generally there’s a minicamp in the summer [and] there’s Summer League where they can get accustomed,’’ Donovan said. “We’re still at a point right now where Patrick is trying to figure out his routine. There’s a lot being thrown at him. He’s playing with new teammates, new coaching staff, new style, the NBA game — there’s so much he’s got to learn.”
With the coronavirus completely changing the timeline the NBA usually operates on, Williams has gone from being drafted fourth overall last month to being dropped into an NBA training camp a few weeks later. His only experience with NBA-caliber talent? Pickup games in the pre-draft camp process, and now two days of full intrasquad scrimmages.
The Rockets come to town for two exhibition games over the weekend.
Go get ’em, Rook!
“It’s definitely been quicker. It’s definitely been more physical,” Williams said Monday on a teleconference call, explaining how the NBA differs from college ball. “It’s been slowing down since the days have gone on. We don’t have a lot of time, so I’ve been getting as many reps as I can, watching film after practice, things like that, to slow it down even more.”
Donovan plans to get the most out of Williams, a Florida State product, during the Bulls’ four preseason games. What he can handle will go a long way in determining his minutes when the games count.
“But I wouldn’t take it [that we’ll] maybe [hold] back his minutes to help him get accustomed,” Donovan said. “He’s done a really good job of, I think, physically handling everything that has come at him, and he’s very bright, he’s a smart guy, and he’s picked things up really, really well. The one thing for him that he’s mentioned to me, and it’s the case with most college guys, [is] just the pace and the speed of the game. Even coming from college as a coach, that was the one thing that stood out for me — just the speed and the pace of the game and how much different it is. So there’s a learning curve for him, but I think he’ll be more than capable of handling that.”
One possible shortcut to more playing time for Williams would be focusing on the defensive ability that attracted the Bulls to him and allowing the rest of his game to eventually catch up. The Bulls let two of their better defenders, Kris Dunn and Shaquille Harrison, leave in free agency just a few weeks ago, so stoppers are not only welcome but needed.
“Offense is going to have its days,” Williams said. “As a team, we’ve got to be able to defend. Defense wins games, as they say. We’ve got to hang our hat on defense. . . . For sure, I think I contribute that to the team.”