Bulls Rookie Dominated by Kawhi as His Own Offense Disappears

Patrick Williams, Chicago Bulls, center

Getty Patrick Williams, Chicago Bulls, center

Let’s start by giving Patrick Williams some credit. He is 19 years old and has all of 24 NBA games of experience under his belt. But if the rookie is going to be on the floor, which is where coach Billy Donovan had him, he is going to have to stand up to scrutiny, and what he did on Friday night in the Clippers’ drubbing of the Bulls is nearly impossible.

Williams started and played 35 minutes. He took five shots. He made one and totaled just three points. The only time in his brief career that he took so few shots was on January 25 against Boston, when he was overmatched and played only 10 minutes.

He was overmatched again, spending some time guarding Kawhi Leonard, who ran rampant with 33 points on 14-for-21 shooting. But Donovan left Williams on the floor, though for the third straight game, Williams was extraordinarily gun-shy offensively. He has taken 19 total shots in Chicago’s last three games, despite playing 105 minutes.

“That’s going to be the evolution of him,” Donovan said after the game. “I think it’s a great point, he has got to be able to stay involved, you know, and put pressure on the defense. Make Kawhi and those other guys work have to work.”

Bulls Tried to Get Williams’ Offense Going

Donovan did point out that the Bulls hoped to get Williams going to start the second half offensively and ran a play to get Williams the ball at the top of the arc on a dribble hand-off. But the Pistons’ Reggie Jackson switched onto the play, with Serge Ibaka cheating into the paint behind him. Williams did not have the opportunity to drive that Donovan was hoping for.

“They did a good job guarding it,” Donovan said. “He did try to drive the ball a couple of times, he got fouled one time going to the basket. Yeah, I think him playing downhill doing a little bit more, that’s what we need him to do.”

Donovan conceded, too, that it was difficult to ask Williams to guard Leonard on one side and remain offensively aggressive on the other. Williams’ task was to keep Leonard away from the rim, and he allowed only five shots at the restricted area. Leonard was 1-for-6 from the 3-point line. Theoretically, the Bulls did what they wanted with Leonard.

Except he was 10-for-10 on 2-point shots away from the rim.

“(Williams) has a lot coming at him,” Donovan said. “He obviously had a hard matchup tonight. I think, for him, he really worked hard on Kawhi and did a lot of good things. Listen, you’re going to have to give up something. What we didn’t want to do is foul and we didn’t want to really let him get to the rim. He made a lot of midrange jump shots, which is what he does.”

Patrick Williams Defends Best, Struggles to Find Shots

Williams has had tough stretches in this season. He is often asked to take on the opponents’ best perimeter scorer, which is difficult enough, but trying to find shots in a starting five offensively dominated by Zach LaVine and Coby White (35 total shots on Friday) makes things tougher.

“Nothing’s easy in this league,” WIlliams said. “But for sure, when you work so hard on the defensive end, when it comes to the offensive end, it’s kinda, that’s your time to rest. But the player that I want to be and the person that I want to be in this league, I have to be able to do it on both ends. Like Kawhi, he’s really good on both ends. So just watch his film, get better from it.”

When Williams had that rough outing against Boston, with only four shots, veteran Thad Young had a talk with him.

“I told him, I said, ‘Look, s–t happens,” Young said. “You have to go out there, you’ve got to play. You’re not going to be perfect. Nobody’s perfect. I’m not perfect, Zach (LaVine)’s not perfect. We’re all not perfect. So don’t try to be perfect.”

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