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Bulls forward Patrick Williams is not immune to rookie moments

While the 19-year-old has taken on the role of defensive stopper, his organization is doing all it can to help him get through all the rookie growing pains.

Bulls rookie forward Patrick Williams defends against the Lakers’ LeBron James during a game Jan. 8 in Los Angeles.
Bulls rookie forward Patrick Williams defends against the Lakers’ LeBron James during a game Jan. 8 in Los Angeles.
Ashley Landis/AP

In an NBA season full of the unexpected, the rookie class has had its share of surprises, as well.

This despite no minicamps after draft day, no Summer League and no extended practice time with the vets.

It was get picked, get a plane ticket, get a place to live and get after it.

Despite its many flaws, this rookie class has made a bigger impact than expected early in the season. And you can count Bulls forward Patrick Williams as a prime example.

Selected fourth overall, Williams ranks seventh in scoring (10.2 points per game) among his fellow first-year players and 11th in rebounding (3.8).

Coach Billy Donovan said Williams (bruised hip) was a full participant in practice Thursday, setting the stage for a showdown Friday in Charlotte with guard LaMelo Ball, the third pick in the draft.

Whether they will get matched up is questionable, especially with Ball coming off the bench for the Hornets and Williams starting, but it doesn’t diminish the Ball vs. Williams hype.

“Yeah, I give a lot of kudos to all of them, especially the one that I’m seeing every day — Patrick Williams,’’ Bulls center Wendell Carter Jr. said about the impact of the rookies despite all the disadvantages because of the coronavirus situation.

“[Williams is] playing phenomenally. He didn’t have any preparation coming into the league, and now he’s starting for the Chicago Bulls.

“I try to help him out with everything I know, especially me being a rookie two years ago. So I’m just trying to show him the ropes of the league, show him the ropes of Chicago, but I think he’s doing a really good job, and he’s a very humble kid, so I’m definitely happy for him.’’

The entire organization is pleased. Williams, 19, has played beyond his years, especially on the defensive end, where he has been thrust into the role of stopper.

But Donovan reminded everyone that Williams is still a rookie with rook moments.

“Oh, yeah, there have been quite a few of them,’’ Donovan said with a chuckle. “Even more so away from just the normal game experience, just everything for him.

‘‘I mean, learning about injury reports and having to post injury reports. That was new to him. I know being in college for as long as I was in college, you play twice a week, and you have a two- or three-day ramp-up period in scouting. Now, all of a sudden, you show up one day, and on the second night of a back-to-back, you’re having a film session for 10 minutes, and, like, he’s having to absorb all that information. It’s just totally different for him.’’

Not that Donovan expected it to play out differently.

He recalled his rookie season as coach of the Thunder and admitted that on the team’s first road trip, he had no idea where the airport was.

“I mean, there are just a lot of firsts for him, and he’s learning,’’ Donovan said. “You know, ‘Why am I going into a cold tank? What does a cold tank do for me?’

“We’ve tried to, as much as possible, just assume that he needs to be educated on all these things. He’s a really, really bright kid and has a great disposition about himself, and he’s got a really good demeanor and wants to learn.’’

NOTE: Wendell Carter Jr. is doubtful to play against the Hornets but will make the trip and give it a go in warmups. He bruised his thigh after colliding with Denzel Valentine in practice.