One game has turned into two, two games into three, and so on until Chicago Bulls forward Patrick Williams has strung together a handful of encouraging performances as the team irons out some of the early-season wrinkles.
It has not been pretty for Williams to start this season – he averaged just 5.3 points on 32% shooting with 2.3 rebounds over his first four games.
He followed that up with four games averaging 10.3 points, 3.0 boards, and 1.8 blocks.
But Williams was still a net-negative when he was on the floor as a minus-6.9 through the first eight games of the season. That left resounding doubts that it would never click for Williams who, according to the player himself, “figured it out” in the Bulls’ 106-88 victory over the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday.
Williams: Had to ‘Figure it Out’
“More energy,” Williams told reporters of the reason behind his strong showing. “I don’t really feel much of a difference in terms of like I’m trying to be more aggressive. Just playing with more energy and when you play with energy good things happen. Not sure why or how or exactly how that works out but that’s just the way it is. When you play with energy, the ball finds you, you knock down open shots. May miss a couple but [you’re] going to get a couple more.”
Whatever he wants to call it, the Bulls will take it.
Williams finished with a season-high 16 points on 77.8% shooting and hit 2-of-3 triples to go with five rebounds, one assist, and one block while committing just one personal foul and one turnover.
He played his most minutes of the short season – a break from the recent trend where his minutes were consistently falling – and was a plus-19.
Williams was quick to point out that he’s had some good examples to follow for getting going.
“I think we got [Alex Caruso], [Javonte Green], [Derrick Jones Jr.]…we got guys on our team who are energy-driven guys, and good things always happen for them. So just trying to kind of pick up on little things like that. You always have to learn, right? So just trying to pick up on things that they do and plays that they make and try to make those.”
Winning can cover up a lot of flaws but in this game, Williams was the one covering up for the flaws of the Bulls’ Big Three who went a combined 14-of-36 from the floor in this one.
Faith in Williams Growing
The biggest change in recent trends for Williams, however, is that he got to close the game.
That was not happening just a few games ago – he sat the entire fourth quarter in the loss to the San Antonio Spurs. But things have changed amid this current surge from the former fourth-overall pick.
His head coach, Billy Donovan points out that, while players develop at different rates, Williams has also had an unusual start to his career but is making progress.
For his part, Williams credits his teammates’ faith in him as things have started to come together.
“Credit to those guys for kind of just staying on me, keeping me uplifted…I felt it was just I was going to figure it out. I was going to figure it out. I think to get to this point in my career – to the NBA or whatever the case may be – I think I’m just a “figure-it-out” type of player.”
Do not dismiss Williams growing comfortable with himself as a player. He previously lamented the gravity of playing with the Bulls’ trio of DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine, and Nikola Vucevic.
Williams Faced Reality
Williams has openly spoken about needing to be more assertive on offense but the Bulls were waiting for consistency amid intermittent flashes of potential stardom.
Finding that comfort zone could very well be the key.
“The situation always didn’t fit me or the situation always wasn’t perfect – it never is. You’ve just got to find a way and figure it out. I think I’m learning a lot in the position that I’m in, from playing with All-Stars. It’s fun. It’s really fun when you get the hang of it. So I think just taking steps in the right direction.”
Not only does he feel comfortable with what he has done of late but he knows there is still a long way to go. Interestingly, Williams’ demeanor has been criticized but it could end up serving him well if he truly has overcome his on-court demons amid constant criticism.