Patrick Williams relegation to Bulls bench put on pause while Javonte Green is out

“We’ll probably put [Green] back in the starting lineup [when he’s healthy] to see what that looks like,” Bulls coach Billy Donovan said.

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Bulls forward Patrick Williams guards the Kings’ De’Aaron Fox during the second half of a game on Dec. 4, 2022.

Bulls forward Patrick Williams guards the Kings’ De’Aaron Fox during the second half of a game on Dec. 4, 2022.

Randall Benton/AP

Going back to the preseason, Billy Donovan has been talking about the Bulls’ efforts to bring a more aggressive style of play out of their 2020 fourth overall pick, Patrick Williams.

After demoting him from the starting five for Javonte Green, Donovan was confident that Williams’ new role wouldn’t have a negative effect on developing that aggressiveness. Either way, we’ll have to wait to see.

His new role was paused when Green suffered a mildly bruised right knee in the Bulls’ 119-111 loss to the Warriors, putting Williams back in the starting lineup in the team’s 110-101 loss to the Kings and again Wednesday night against the Wizards.

“We’ll probably put [Green] back in the starting lineup [when he’s healthy] to see what that looks like,” Donovan said.

Despite Williams’ looming relegation back to the bench, teammates have seen a change in him.

DeMar DeRozan was walking out of the Bulls’ locker room the other day when he overheard an unfamiliar exchange — Williams was sharing jokes at his expense.

The discourse was nothing to be offended by. In fact, DeRozan was smiling as he recalled the story for the media at the Advocate Center during the shootaround Wednesday afternoon. The moment was a signal of growth for the 21-year-old power forward in DeRozan’s eyes. Beyond any steps forward he has taken on the court, Williams is less reserved among his teammates, and it’s something DeRozan loves to see.

After a slow start in October, during which he averaged seven points over a seven-game stretch, Williams’ game subtly improved in November. He averaged 10.2 points in 14 games last month, including a 17-point performance against the Celtics, to go with his five rebounds per game.

But DeRozan would love to see some fireworks from Williams.

“I made a joke one day, if he gets a tech in a game, I’ll pay for his tech,” DeRozan said, “because he doesn’t make any expressions.”

Williams’ first technical foul would come with a $2,000 fine. It’s a price DeRozan is willing to pay to unleash some emotion from the typically reserved Williams.

Drummond’s minutes

The Bulls big man is averaging 14.2 minutes per game coming off the bench, but in the last two games, those minutes have taken a considerable hit.

In the Bulls’ 119-111 loss to the Warriors last week, he played just five minutes. Two nights later, in the team’s 110-101 loss to the Kings, he played six. In the Bulls’ previous 21 games, he had played under 10 minutes once.

Donovan attributed the change to his desire to go with a smaller, quicker lineup and the struggles he has seen from his second unit.

“That group was not great in Sacramento,” Donovan said. “So when you’re coming out of the half, you’re saying, ‘Let’s do something different.’ I have a lot of confidence in Andre, he’s been a really good guy. Like any of these players, they want to be out there on the floor. But you’re not going to be able to play everybody all the time.”

“What we’re fighting for is a level of consistency both with first- and second-unit guys.”

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