Williams hurt his shoulder on this play during the Bulls’ season-opening victory over the Detroit Pistons:
The initial take was that Williams would be alright and he hasn’t missed any of the three Bulls games since he injured himself. In fact, a day after the shoulder injury, Williams told reporters he was lucky the injury wasn’t more severe.
Unfortunately, it appears the effects of the injury are lingering and at the very least painful.
The Extended Rest Should Help Patrick Williams
The Bulls knocked off the Toronto Raptors on the road Monday night to move to 4-0 on the season. The team doesn’t play again until Thursday when they host the New York Knicks in the first major test for the team.
Having Tuesday and Wednesday off to get treatment should help Williams recover and perhaps feel a little better for the game against the Knicks. Chicago will need him, but if he can’t go, expect to see Billy Donovan turn to either Javonte Green or Alize Johnson to step into the starting lineup.
The Bulls can ill afford to play without Williams for most games, but it figures to be an especially bad time to be without him against the Knicks. Williams will almost certainly draw the defensive assignment against the Knicks’ Julius Randle. The reigning NBA’s Most Improved Player is a major focal point of the Knicks’ offense. He followed up his breakout season in 2020-21 with a strong start to the 2021-22 campaign.
Through four games, Randle is averaging 25.4 points, 11.3 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 1 steal and 1.8 blocks. All of those numbers are above his season averages from last year. If there is a downside to Randle’s game this year compared to 2020-21 it’s his three-point shooting. He made 41% of his threes last season but has struggled to find his mark through the early going this year. Randle has made just 31% of his long-range attempts. Williams and the Bulls are hoping the downgraded shooting continues.
It’s Show And Prove Time for the Bulls
It’s crazy to say, but Thursday’s game against the Knicks is probably the biggest regular-season game the Bulls have played in several years. It’s definitely the biggest in Zach LaVine’s career.
Remember, we’re talking about a guy who has not only never been to the postseason, or on a team with a winning regular-season record; This is first time LaVine has been on a team that won four games in a row in the regular season.
Because he’s still the team’s best player, the upcoming contest with the Knicks is a time for the Bulls’ defense, their multi-pronged offense and their confidence to be tested. With all due respect to the Detroit Pistons, New Orleans Pelicans and the Toronto Raptors, the major improvement most of us are hoping to see will be on display on Thursday.
Do the Bulls need to win to keep people excited? Probably not–though a 5-0 record with a win over the Knicks would be sweet–a hard-fought battle that leads to steady improvement and a better than .500 record against the next 12 opponents–all playoff teams from last year–would be almost as encouraging.