Bulls rookie Patrick Williams continues putting a lot on his chest

Last week, it was Giannis Antetokounmpo. On Friday, it was LeBron James. Williams welcomes the challenge of becoming an elite defender, and the Bulls are willing participants in that process.

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AP

His chest felt good.

Bulls rookie Patrick Williams was happy about that.

Even better, however, was the experience he added to his résumé.

Sure, the Bulls have lost to the Bucks and Lakers the last two Fridays. But those games allowed Williams to get an education he can’t get simply by practicing and watching film.

Williams had the task of guarding two-time reigning NBA most valuable player Giannis Antetokounmpo against the Bucks and four-time NBA champion LeBron James against the Lakers.

‘‘I can’t really say much, except I got better,’’ Williams said after the Bulls’ 117-115 loss Friday to the Lakers. ‘‘I got better [Friday] as a defender, as a player. Just being around [James], watching him, guarding him, I got better. In the 10th game of the season, that’s all you can ask for.

‘‘I took on the challenge. I mean, he is LeBron James, so he’s going to get his. He’s going to get to his spots. But you’ve just kind of got to make him take the tough ones, and he’s making the tough ones. So I got better.’’

That is the Bulls’ hope for Williams, whom they selected with the No. 4 overall pick in the draft. They haven’t had an elite two-way player since trading Jimmy Butler in 2017, and such players don’t exactly grow on trees.

When the Bulls drafted Williams, they hoped they could get him on that path. To coach Billy Donovan’s credit, he hasn’t eased Williams, 19, into things.

‘‘Patrick did a nice job,’’ Donovan said of his work against James. ‘‘I think I said before the game that this is going to be a learning experience for him going through this, but I thought he did a great job of competing. He really battled. And he’s going to get better from a game like this.’’

Williams has that kind of makeup. Not only does he understand the process of on-the-job training, but he has come into the league looking to establish himself as an eventual defensive stopper. That’s a rarity.

Young players often get caught up in scoring points. Williams is willing to sacrifice scoring for defense and judge his outing on whether he made life tougher for the opposition.

‘‘In this league, I want to be a really good two-way player, a guy that can really guard the best guys every night,’’ Williams said. ‘‘I mean, that’s a challenge, for sure. It’s not easy. So in my rookie year, I just want to learn as much as I can. I think I’ve been doing that.

‘‘I’m confident. The coaches have the utmost confidence in me. My teammates have confidence in me to go out there and guard him, so I just rely on their confidence and my confidence, too, and just take it as a steppingstone.’’

So what has he learned?

After matching up against Antetokounmpo, Williams said he had a ‘‘burning chest’’ from all the shoulders the ‘‘Greek Freak’’ hit him with as he tried to back him down.

‘‘From Giannis, I learned that you can’t lean on him,’’ Williams said. ‘‘You can’t really play with your chest; you’ve gotta play with your hands to make him uncomfortable. So, like I said, I learned.’’

His next assignment comes Sunday, when he likely will get a shot at guarding the Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard.

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