Bulls forward Patrick Williams continues to mature
It hasn’t come at the pace many would have liked, but Williams continues to show he understands what’s being asked of him. Now it’s about him putting that into practice every night.
Forward DeMar DeRozan wasn’t the only Bulls player to hit a milestone in the team’s victory Monday against the Hawks.
Not to be outdone by DeRozan playing in his 1,000th regular-season game, third-year forward Patrick Williams notched his first double-digit-rebound game of the season.
Even with ‘‘milestone’’ being used lightly for Williams’ accomplishment, it shouldn’t have taken him until the Bulls’ 46th game of the season to reach the 10-rebound mark. Not at 6-7 and 215 pounds and as explosive as he has shown he can be around the rim.
What matters to the Bulls, however, is that he keeps moving forward.
‘‘You’ve gotta feel him on the backboard,’’ coach Billy Donovan said of his expectations for Williams. ‘‘He’s got great explosiveness off the floor, and he doesn’t need a big gather or long run to jump. He’s explosive off two feet. When he makes those efforts to get on the backboard, he’s an elite rebounder. And we need him to do that.’’
Considering Williams entered the Bulls’ road game Tuesday against the Pacers behind DeRozan and guard Zach LaVine in rebounding at 4.3 per game, yes, they certainly need him to do that. And the hope is that Williams hears the message loud and clear and puts it into action.
‘‘I agree with [Donovan] in terms of I need to be more consistent getting rebounds,’’ Williams said. ‘‘I think we’re really good when any of our wings or guards rebound. We can get out [in transition] quicker. I definitely put that on myself.’’
In case he doesn’t, DeRozan promised he would continue staying in Williams’ ear.
‘‘One of the most versatile players on this team,’’ DeRozan said of Williams’ talent. ‘‘Once he gets comfortable and realizes what he’s doing now, it’s going to help us even more.
‘‘I think you all don’t see how much I get on his nerves. I really get on his nerves. Like, really get on his nerves. If he plays bad or doesn’t compete the way I know he can compete, it’s verbal abuse.’’
Donovan continued praising the defensive improvements of backup guard Coby White and said it started with White’s willingness to play more physically.
‘‘Overall, he’s done a good job of going vertical, keeping his hands back, in a way,’’ Donovan said. ‘‘I just think his physicality has probably been the biggest thing — at the point of screens, getting over screens or under screens, containing the ball. I feel like from last year to this year, he’s made some significant progress.’’
Will that be enough for the Bulls to match any offers White receives as a restricted free agent this summer? That’s for another day. What Donovan cared about was White knowing what he had to work on.
‘‘He’s a bright player,’’ Donovan said. ‘‘[Improved defense] was something we needed from all of our guys, not just Coby. But it was an area that he just knew [he needed to improve].’’
Guard Goran Dragic missed the game against the Pacers with a non-COVID illness, but Donovan said he is feeling better and might be able to join the Bulls in time for their game Thursday against the Hornets in Charlotte, North Carolina.