Bulls coach Billy Donovan has options with Patrick Williams sidelined

Donovan called Williams’ ankle injury “unfortunate,’’ but he also felt pretty good about the versatility of his roster to fill his spot just in case the second-year standout isn’t ready for the start of the regular season.

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“I think it’s a day-by-day process, just trusting the [medical] staff that we have,’’ the Bulls’ Patrick Williams said of sprained ankle.

“I think it’s a day-by-day process, just trusting the [medical] staff that we have,’’ the Bulls’ Patrick Williams said of sprained ankle.

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Patrick Williams knew his left ankle went in a direction it wasn’t supposed to, but his initial reaction was: “I didn’t think it was that bad.’’

Ah, young guys. Optimistic until the MRI exam gives them that smack in the face.

That’s where the second-year Bulls forward was on Monday — dealing with the reality of a severely sprained ankle and doing all he can to try to get back in time for the early portion of the regular season.

“I think it’s a day-by-day process, just trusting the [medical] staff that we have,’’ Williams said of where he is mentally with the setback. “We’re coming in every day ready to work. I haven’t really ever gotten hurt and had to sit out this long before. So it’s definitely new for me, something that I don’t want to get used to. But I think it’s a different challenge just learning how to come in every day and work on something other than the court.’’

Unfortunately for Williams, it’s the court that matters.

He was penciled in as the starting power forward, had a great summer under his belt and was prepared to bring a new aggressive attitude on offense.

Now, instead of practicing with a new-look roster for the start of camp Tuesday, Williams will be jumping between hot tubs and ice packs, with a timetable that could delay his practice arrival for another few weeks.

It’s bad news for Williams, but potentially even worse for a Bulls team that was lacking depth and size at that frontcourt spot before his injury.

“Obviously, Patrick’s setback was unfortunate,’’ coach Billy Donovan said. “He was having a great summer. Leading up to Summer League and post-Summer League, he’s really done a great job. It’s disappointing he can’t start off [Tuesday].

“We’re probably going to be a little undersized at that position, but when you look around the league at those positions, a lot of those guys have been incredibly versatile. I think we have the flexibility with our roster to move different guys down there.’’

So who will that be?

Derrick Jones Jr. is the likely candidate, but Donovan wasn’t about to tip his hand, wanting as much competition as possible at every position.

He threw out multiple scenarios, including putting veteran DeMar DeRozan at the four and moving Alex Caruso into the starting lineup for a three-guard attack.

Hard pass

The Bulls came under investigation by the NBA in early August for possibly violating the tampering rules in the Lonzo Ball sign-and-trade, but Arturas Karnisovas wouldn’t talk about where the investigation stands.

“Well, thank you for your question, but I will not be able to comment on that,’’ the Bulls’ executive vice president of basketball operations said.

The Bulls weren’t alone, with Miami also being looked at for the sign-and-trade deal that sent Kyle Lowry to the Heat.

The NBA has been looking to stamp out the tampering practice for a handful of years, and two seasons ago, it instituted stiffer punishments for guilty organizations. They included a maximum tampering fine of up to $10 million, having draft picks taken away or contracts simply voided.

Hard pass II

Zach LaVine spent the end of last season in the health and safety protocols after testing positive for the coronavirus, then had a scare at the start of the Olympics.

Just don’t ask the All-Star guard about those experiences or where he was in the vaccination process.

“COVID-related questions, I’m keeping a personal matter to myself, and I think the team wants to do that, as well,’’ LaVine said.

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