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Bulls dominate home opener, but Patrick Williams has to join the fun

The Bulls almost looked like a well-oiled machine in the victory Friday over the Pelicans, but if they truly want to be a contender in the East, they’ll need all five starters on board and aggressive. That means Williams must join the mix.

The defense was once again stifling.

The big three were a handful on the offensive end most of the night.

Point guard Lonzo Ball was electric as he messed around and got the triple-double.

And the bench put together its very own mix tape, whether it was video-game-like dunks or handcuffing opposing ball handlers.

An almost perfect home opener for the Bulls on Friday, as they overwhelmed the Zion Williamson-less Pelicans 128-112 at the United Center.

And as soon as Patrick Williams wants to jump into the fray, well, then the Bulls will really have something to be excited about.

No big deal, it’s early, one may say?

Not the case when this roster is talking about not only reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2017, but contending in the Eastern Conference. And with the way Miami, Atlanta, New York, Milwaukee, and Brooklyn are constructed, this will need to be a five-man starting party.

Williams was given a pass last season, despite being the No. 4 overall pick in the 2020 draft. He didn’t have the luxury of working out with the veterans, a Summer League, or a mini-camp because of the coronavirus shutting down his summer going into his rookie season.

But Year 2 was about development. It was about Williams showing that his trajectory is that of a high draft pick. So far his passiveness resembles a guy satisfied with developing into a role player. Enough so that coach Billy Donovan was already looking for ways to get Williams going.

“He’s such a team-oriented guy, and listen when he’s out there with DeMar [DeRozan], and Zach [LaVine], and Vooch [Nikola Vucevic], who are just really, really established offensive players in this league, at times he’s not going to be a primary option,’’ Donovan said. “But I think I personally can do a better job of trying to put him into some positions where he can play maybe to his strengths, besides cutting and just getting to the backboard and getting out in transition.’’

Early on Friday, that didn’t happen.

Williams passed up two open shots and seemed to be satisfied with DeRozan setting the offensive tone in the first, and then LaVine erupting for 20 points in the second quarter. Williams did get going a bit in the second, staggered with a few of the bench, and that might be the way Donovan goes for a bit.

As far as what Williams thinks, he’s remained dismissive of being aggressive, explaining it off as playing winning basketball.

“The expectation here has been to win,’’ Williams said. “It’s been that way since day one. The first practice, the first meeting that we had as a team last year, the front office was there, Coach Donovan said, ‘We’re not here to take it slow. We’re here to win.’ And I wouldn’t want it any other way. It’s a part of basketball, just being able to balance. Picking your spots. Knowing when and where your shots are. And also playing your role and sacrificing for the team.’’

Sacrifice shouldn’t involve moving to the backseat for Williams, however.

The win over New Orleans (0-2) should be yet another lesson for Williams. There were times he could have carried the load, especially since LaVine didn’t score at all in that opening quarter.

Then the takeover happened, as LaVine found his rhythm, finishing with 32. Vucevic had 10 points and five assists, DeRozan chipped in with 26, while Ball had 17 points to go along with 10 rebounds and 10 assists against his former team.

Williams had eight.

The good news for the Bulls (2-0) is it’s still very early and Williams is a willing student. But he’s really missing out on some fun.

“We’re out there having fun,’’ LaVine said of the latest win. “I think everyone sees that. We just have a totally different energy with this team.’’