Plans are in place for the Bulls’ Patrick Williams when he returns from injury

Coach Billy Donovan spoke with Williams on Friday and told him his first priority is to make sure he is in great shape.

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Bulls forward Patrick Williams continued to pick up the pace this week in his rehab from surgery to repair torn ligaments in his left wrist last fall.

“He was in Charlotte with us [Wednesday],’’ coach Billy Donovan said. “He’s working, he’s getting workouts in. He’s able to do a lot more than he was several weeks ago.”

Donovan had a quick chat with Williams on Friday to check in and discuss what his focus should be in the next month as he gets closer to returning. His message: Get in the best shape possible, then push that even further.

That was the approach the Bulls took with Williams — the No. 4 pick of the 2020 draft — last summer as they envisioned him becoming a defensive stopper who could guard the best wings in the game while logging the same heavy minutes that many of those wings do.

He could be back by mid-March.

“It’s hard because you’re not going against physical contact every day, but he has got to, as best he can, get himself in incredible shape,” Donovan said. “I thought that was a big focus for us going into [last] summer and then going into Summer League and training camp, and he did a good job with that. He was able to play and do things we haven’t been able to do with him. It starts there.”

The Bulls are discussing whether they’ll bring Williams back as a starter, the role he had before he was hurt just five games into the season. But they might not want to disrupt the chemistry that Javonte Green has brought to the starting unit.

“Javonte has filled in and done a really nice job as a starter,” Donovan said. “The thing we would have to evaluate is, do you bring [Williams] off the bench or start him? What does our team look like if we all are whole? And how well does [Williams] fit with maybe a first-unit group or a second-unit group? But his whole focus has to be getting his skill set and athleticism into the game.”

The initial belief was that Williams would be out the entire regular season, possibly returning for the playoffs. If he’s back by mid-March, he’d have potentially three weeks to get his legs and rhythm back before the postseason. But don’t ask Arturas Karnisovas, the Bulls’ executive vice president of basketball oper-ations, about that.

“At some point, I think you’re going to see him this year,’’ Karnisovas said Thursday. “So in terms of timeline, we don’t have one for now. We don’t want to put any pressure on Patrick or us to bring him back.”

Bob and weave?

Asked about possible financial constraints that may have factored into the Bulls standing pat at the trade deadline, Karnisovas wouldn’t show his hand.

“There’s a lot of things that go into decision-making,” he said.

Since Bulls president and chief operating officer Michael Reinsdorf took on a stronger voice in the team’s business several years ago, it’s believed the luxury tax isn’t a concern if ownership feels it has a contending team. 

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