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Development of young Bulls Coby White and Patrick Williams hits a speed bump

The Bulls might be OK without White and Williams in the short term, but their injuries are a big step back in their development for the long term.

The Bulls expect Coby White (left) to be back for the regular season. They’re not so sure about Patrick Williams.
The Bulls expect Coby White (left) to be back for the regular season. They’re not so sure about Patrick Williams.

At some point this month, Bulls guard Coby White will have his surgically repaired left shoulder re-evaluated and get an updated timeline for his return.

Maybe it will be December or maybe it will carry into January, but he is expected back at some point in the regular season.

Forward Patrick Williams isn’t as fortunate. He had surgery Sunday to repair torn ligaments in his left wrist and will miss four to six months.

In the best-case scenario, Williams will make it back late in the regular season. In the worst-case scenario, his second season will be a wash.

That’s a problem because this season was essential for the continued development of the Bulls’ last two first-round draft picks. Spending more time in the training room than on the court wasn’t in the plan for White and Williams.

‘‘Anytime you lose good players, it’s tough,’’ coach Billy Donovan said. ‘‘Both those guys were key pieces going into this year. Coby is obviously going to play this year at some point. Their development, especially with a veteran group, would have been really important. Anytime you lose good players, any team, there’s things you have to overcome.

‘‘The biggest thing is, because I really haven’t seen Coby yet against any contact, how far is he set back in terms of getting back to his normal, what he’s been? And did he lose a development piece with this injury and being out so many months? And the same thing with Patrick. Not only is he losing a season, but he’s losing a period to develop.’’

Credit the Bulls for building a roster during the offseason that can cover up those losses in the short term. The additions of Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso moved White down the depth chart at guard a couple of spots, and Williams was off to a slow start and arguably was being outplayed by reserve Javonte Green.

In the long term, however, continuing to develop White and Williams was a high priority for executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas. The key to his success with the Nuggets was to draft smart but develop smarter.

The Bulls selected White seventh overall in 2019 and Williams fourth overall in 2020. A franchise picking that high can miss on one top-10 pick from a development standpoint, but having the growth of back-to-back such picks stunted in the same season is tough to overcome.

That’s the Bulls’ reality, however.

No wonder Donovan and several veteran players were concerned about Williams’ mindset as he starts the rehab process.

Forward DeMar DeRozan even gave Williams a book called ‘‘The Undefeated Mind’’ to help him through the process.

‘‘That book just taught me a lot about just being calm, how to channel my energy, how to stay even-keeled through the ups and downs,’’ DeRozan said. ‘‘Understanding that in life, you can’t pick and choose when you’re going to have a good or bad day. So when those days come, understand how to channel your energy. I think it will be something that’s beneficial.’’

Donovan said he hopes Williams and White can lean on each other while White finishes his rehab and Williams begins his.

‘‘I think we’ve got to, as best we can organizationally, help those guys get back and utilize this time as best they can,’’ Donovan said. ‘‘But it’s certainly not the most ideal situation for their development.’’