clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Bulls need more from rookie Patrick Williams, and he needs to know that

The ultra-talented 19-year-old showed flashes of brilliance in the first half Saturday, then turned off the aggressiveness in the second as the Bulls blew a lead and fell to the Hawks.

‘‘He’s going to continue to get better, but I think the mindset we just have to continue to teach him is he can be a starting-type player in this league with work and with a certain mindset, a killer-instinct mindset,’’ Thad Young said of Bulls teammate Patrick Williams.
‘‘He’s going to continue to get better, but I think the mindset we just have to continue to teach him is he can be a starting-type player in this league with work and with a certain mindset, a killer-instinct mindset,’’ Thad Young said of Bulls teammate Patrick Williams.
Lynne Sladky/AP

Bulls rookie forward Patrick Williams finally was acting like a typical 19-year-old on a Saturday night.

His All-Star ‘‘parents’’ — guard Zach LaVine and center Nikola Vucevic — were out, the game was all his and he seemed to embrace doing whatever he wanted.

So exactly who called the police on him at halftime?

There lies the frustration with Williams. He has shown flashes of brilliance, only for those to be overshadowed by his penchant to defer to his teammates and explain it away as ‘‘making the right play.’’

Without LaVine (health and safety protocol) and Vucevic (right adductor) available Saturday against the Hawks, Williams needed to realize he was the most talented Bulls player on the court.

He did in the first half, shooting 5-for-8 from the field — including two smooth-looking three-pointers — scoring 15 points and having opposing defenders bounce off him when he attacked the rim.

More important, the Bulls were in command on the scoreboard, leading by nine and looking to pull out a must-win game.

In the second half, however, Williams was 2-for-5 from the field and scored only four points. The Bulls lost 108-97.

‘‘I think we all [lose sight of] the fact that he’s a teenager,’’ forward Thad Young said of Williams. ‘‘We try to instill adult-like stuff into him. Sometimes guys are ready for that, and sometimes guys are not.

‘‘Some of the stuff that he does that we think is spectacular he doesn’t even know is spectacular. He just thinks it’s a regular play that he’s done. And we’re, like, ‘No, that was amazing. Whatever you just did, keep doing more of that.’ And he’s, like, ‘Oh, OK.’

‘‘He’s going to continue to get better, but I think the mindset we just have to continue to teach him is he can be a starting-type player in this league with work and with a certain mindset, a killer-instinct mindset.’’

That’s not an easy transition for certain rookies, but it’s one Williams has to make if he wants to be an elite two-way player in the NBA.

Look at what Kings rookie guard Tyrese Haliburton has done recently. He plays a different position, but a sudden killer-instinct mindset has him averaging 18 points and 8.4 assists in his last five games. The Kings are 3-2 in those games, including victories against the Mavericks and Lakers.

And look at what Timberwolves rookie guard Anthony Edwards has done for most of the second half of the season, but specifically in the last seven games. The Timberwolves have gone 5-2 in those games with him averaging 22 points.

Williams has the physical tools to score at that clip and still be the defensive stopper he so badly wants to be.

‘‘I’ve always felt like every level you go up in the game of basketball, whether you go from high school to college, college to the NBA, the hardest thing to learn is when do I shoot and when do I pass,’’ coach Billy Donovan said. ‘‘There are times when [Williams] tries to be aggressive and it doesn’t work out well, and maybe he will back away just because he’s a team guy. And there are other times I just try to thrust him into it and say, ‘You have to go, and you have to be aggressive.’ ’’

It’s beyond that time for Williams now. The season is all but slipping away, and he has to be aggressive.

‘‘I’m trying to be aggressive,’’ Williams said. ‘‘But . . . it’s a learning experience, for sure. We have some more games to go, so hopefully I can continue to get better at that.’’

Ah, teenagers.