Bulls coach Billy Donovan wants to temper expectations on young players

Donovan went out of his way to speak about how he thinks Bulls forward Patrick Williams — and all young players — should be perceived by others.

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Toronto Raptors forward Scottie Barnes, left, defends as Bulls forward Patrick Williams (44) looks for an opening during a Nov. 6 game.

The Bulls are trying to keep realistic expectations for forward Patrick Williams.

Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP

SALT LAKE CITY — The outside perception of Bulls forward Patrick Williams makes him laugh.

‘‘I’m not a robot,’’ Williams said. ‘‘I feel like my teammates and coaches know what I’m about, but I can’t just be what people outside the building think I should be. I know my skill set, my body, and I’m figuring things out. I know what I’m capable of doing and what I still need to work on.’’

So does his coach. That’s why Billy Donovan went out of his way Monday to speak about how he thinks Williams — and all young players — should be seen by others.

Leading up to the Bulls’ game against the Jazz, there was a lot of talk about former Bull Lauri Markkanen and the way he was handled early in his career. Selected No. 7 overall by the Bulls in the 2017 draft, Markkanen’s game seemed to diminish by Year 4. Now he’s flourishing with the Jazz.

Is that affecting how the Bulls are dealing now with Williams, whom they selected No. 4 overall in the 2020 draft? Somewhat. But it’s more about Donovan wanting there to be more realistic expectations on young players.

‘‘I mean, you look at [former Bull] Wendell [Carter Jr.] when I got here, look at Coby [White], even Lauri,’’ Donovan said. ‘‘It’s really hard when you just all of a sudden make a statement on draft night: ‘This is our future. This is what we’re building around.’ We’ve tried to be really careful with that with Patrick. Because I think it’s a responsibility — and a heck of a responsibility — to live up to.

‘‘There was a time when a guy was a top-five or a top-10 player . . . you were pretty confident that this guy was going to be a longstanding starter, maybe an All-Star. But that was when guys stayed three or four years in college and there was a maturity coming in. For a lot of these top picks, when they come in, there’s an expectation that they’re going to evolve into this. I think it’s really unfair because there’s more of a history of guys that have been top-10 picks that haven’t developed into All-Stars.’’

Williams had a nice 10-game run under his belt entering the game against the Jazz, averaging 10.8 points and five rebounds in that span. More important, Donovan said, he was using his physicality.

‘‘For a guy with that kind of body and strength, you should be feeling him through the course of a game,’’ Donovan said. ‘‘Of late, you’re starting to feel him a little bit more.’’


Guard Alex Caruso was dealing with a sprained right ankle and was unable to practice the last few days. He was cleared to play against the Jazz, but the Bulls’ mindset with him continues to be that less is more in terms of playing time.

‘‘Just trying to be conscientious of his minutes and those long stretches for him because he does play hard,’’ Donovan said. ‘‘There are going to be some nights where he’s going to get over 30 minutes. For the most part, we’re just trying to manage how hard he does play and compete in relationship to the number of minutes he’s getting.’’

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