The Chicago Bulls fell short in their first In-Season Tournament contest, a 109-107 defeat at the hands of the Brooklyn Nets. But the most intriguing development to come out of the affair was head coach Billy Donovan relegating Patrick Williams to the bench.
It comes amid another slow night and a poor start to the regular season. Williams maintained his team-first attitude, perhaps cementing who he is as a player.
“I think this is just who Patrick is,” said former NBA veteran and current analyst Kendall Gill said on “Chicago Bulls Postgame Live” on November 3. “Just go with the flow and just do what he’s asked to do each and every night, and that’s what it is. That’s what we’ve come to expect and that’s what we have to expect each and every night.”
A lost sophomore season in which he made just 17 appearances provided some cover for Williams’ passiveness. But he appeared in all 82 games last season and this is essentially a contract year. That excuse is seemingly out of the window.
Bulls general manager Marc Eversley said plainly that Williams needed to step up.
“This is a really big year for Patrick Williams, Eversley said during the NBA TV broadcast of the Bulls’ win over the Toronto Raptors during Las Vegas Summer League on July 7. “I think for us to take that next level, Patrick’s gotta grow. I know he’s put in the work this summer – he’s going to continue to put in the work…He’s really gotta take another step.”
Williams, 22, is averaging career lows with 5.3 points and 3.5 rebounds. He is also committing a career-high 2.2 personal fouls per game this season.
Bulls Better When Patrick Williams Plays Off the Bench
“I still think he’s a talented kid,” said Gill, who played in the NBA for 15 seasons, including spending the 2003-04 campaign with the Bulls. “But he needs to do that all the time instead of every once in a while. But if he’s comfortable, I guess we just have to be comfortable.”
That is a tough pill to swallow.
Some considered Williams to be the piece who could take the Bulls from being a fringe Play-In Tournament team to a legitimate playoff contender should he develop. That is tough to do coming in with the second unit. At the same time, Williams had what was easily his best performance of the season coming off the bench versus the Nets.
He set new season-high marks with 10 points and five rebounds. Williams also shot 66.7% from the floor and knocked down 2-of-3 triples.
“Maybe that’s his role coming off the bench,” Gill said. “Look, if I’m [head coach Billy Donovan], I’m telling him, ‘Look, if you’re comfortable coming off the bench and scoring, then that’s the role I want you to play because you help the team in that regard’.
The Bulls are now 81-95 with Williams active. But they are 15-11 when he comes off the bench.
Kendall Gill on Patrick Williams: ‘Keep Him on the Bench’
Donovan joined the chorus of voices – both internal and external – calling on Williams to play with more urgency. And not just when scoring, as the head coach has specifically called out Williams’ lack of rebounding. He also pulled the former No. 4 overall pick (2020) from the starting lineup twice last season.
“Let’s keep him on the bench, see what happens,” Gill said. “If he’s averaging double figures off of the bench, then he stays there for the rest of the season.”
Williams averaged more points as a starter than as a reserve last season. He averaged 10.3 points when he began games, and 9.7 points when he came in during. But his true shooting percentages were 56.7% and 61.4%, respectively, perhaps lending further credence to the idea.