Bulls rookie forward Patrick Williams remains a work in progress.
Williams has had to learn a new offense, how to guard the elite forwards in the league, adjust to a new city, and heck, even how to use a snow shovel for the first time.
And after the two-game series with the Knicks, he also has learned the art of NBA combat.
Was it a dirty series with New York? Far from it. But was it physical? Very much so.
Earning the praise of coach Billy Donovan and teammates, not only did the rookie learn from it, but he embraced it in the second game.
“I mean he played in the second half the way I’d like to see him play,’’ Donovan said of Wednesday’s loss. “I thought he was a big factor for us getting back into the game.
“I feel like we’re getting more physical defensively [as a team].’’
That’s thanks in part to veterans like Thad Young and Garrett Temple, but also Williams, who quickly warmed up to the old-school style of ’80s and ’90s basketball that New York is trying to bring back.
“Pat’s good,’’ guard Zach LaVine said. “As long as [he] stays physical, it changes the makeup of our team because he’s a presence. Even at 19, he’s a grown man. He’s what, 245 [pounds], 6-8? Nobody’s really going to be able to out physical him when he’s locked in. I think he played great in the second half. He was fighting through some tough plays, defensively getting after guys.
“With his shot, I just told him to be aggressive. I’m going to be able to find him if guys are helping off of him or if they are doubling me, I’m always going to look for him. I just told him to be confident and shoot it. I don’t care if he misses or makes it, just stay aggressive.’’
Not that the Knicks gave him much choice. The Bulls’ win Monday definitely had its physical moments, but the Knicks were also playing a back-to-back after losing to the powerhouse Clippers a day earlier.
With an off day in Chicago on Tuesday, the Bulls received the full brunt of Knicks basketball in the finale.
“I mean that’s pretty much as physical as it gets,’’ Williams said Thursday. “Whether it’s high school or college, we definitely had some physical games but this is a totally different level. These are grown men out here, so they’re stronger, naturally they’re just stronger and quicker. But they’re also way more physical, way more mentally tough, so this is a whole different level. It’s something I’m still adjusting to.’’
But it’s also something that put a smirk on his face in the Zoom call.
“I do like it,’’ Williams said. “It’s just gritty. It’s just best man win. And you just gotta fight, you just gotta fight. I think that’s pretty much been the biggest thing that I’ve gotten from being on this team and in this league, you’ve just gotta fight every night. Sometimes your body might be fatigued, might be sore, but you just gotta go out there and compete, and it’s way more mental than physical.’’
Williams has been a quick learner.
“This is all new for him, but he’s a really good player,’’ reserve guard/forward Denzel Valentine said of Williams. “He’s going to figure it out. He can pretty much do everything on the court. He’s a really good, dynamic piece for us. We definitely need him.’’