Bulls forward Patrick Williams not being viewed as a savior

Bulls coach Billy Donovan said Monday that Williams was still a few weeks away from a return from left-wrist surgery. When he does return, it likely will be off the bench.

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Bulls coach Billy Donovan isn’t looking at Patrick Williams as a savior.

He believes Williams can be a solid defender and bring some physicality to the frontcourt when he gets the nod from the medical staff, but Williams was limited in training camp with a bum ankle and when he did return, he lasted only five games before getting injured again against the Knicks.

So after all this time has gone by, expecting Williams to be a difference-maker simply by dropping him into the last few weeks of the regular season and the fire of the playoffs isn’t realistic for Donovan.

“I think adding Patrick helps our team, but for a guy that’s missed five months, and the first day he comes back, just to unload him into the starting lineup, I don’t know if that would be the best thing for our team, and I don’t think that would be fair for Patrick,’’ Donovan said Monday. “I do think that he is going to need some time to get his legs under him, to get his rhythm back, to find some kind of routine, and as a starter to come back and put him in that position, I think that would be a big ask for him.

“Now for his size, defense and rebounding, he can play an important role for our team, but I do think for the second unit right now, that’s probably what I would be looking for.’’

Donovan and his staff have met and discussed how they should use Williams, and while not much is definite, Donovan was leaning toward initially bringing him off the bench.

Javonte Green has done a great job with the starting group, and there are just too many unknowns with Williams.

First and foremost: when they’ll even get him back. He did get scanned last week, and the results were positive, but there’s a strengthening issue that Williams was still working through in limited contact.

“He’s progressing, but the biggest challenge for him right now is just getting to a position and place where I think the doctors feel comfortable that if his hand is in a position, and he takes a fall or gets his hand jerked back, that he’s going to be OK,’’ Donovan said. “I think the doctors want him to get to a specific point and a specific date in March where they feel pretty comfortable that it’s five months or whatever the date was. They’re pretty hardened on that. Getting to that number, they’ll feel pretty confident that he’s healed.’’

Lonzo news

Point guard Lonzo Ball just hit the six-week mark after his left-knee surgery. The original timetable was six to eight weeks, and it’s starting to feel like the latter.

While Ball hasn’t had any setbacks, he was still dealing with pain from the bone bruise — which was the original diagnosis before he also had the meniscus repaired.

That discomfort has slowed his return, leaving the Bulls with no clear timetable.

“Now he’s running, he’s doing some lateral work, but he’s not doing it full speed,’’ Donovan said. “The feeling is the healing of that is going to be really, really critical as far as getting into that full speed running vertically and moving horizontally. That’s where we’ve got to get him to. It’s probably been a little bit slower because of what he’s dealing with.’’

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