Bulls Star Blasts Narrative Surrounding Teammate: He’s ‘Working on His Game’

Patrick Williams, Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls

Getty A brief altercation between Zach LaVine #8 of the Chicago Bulls (L) and Bobby Portis #9 of the Milwaukee Bucks (R) is broken up

The Chicago Bulls are putting a lot on the shoulders of forward Patrick Williams heading into the third year of his career. But star shooting guard Zach LaVine is pumping the breaks on some of the rhetoric surrounding his teammate.

Williams’ development got interrupted last season after he suffered torn wrist ligaments on a hard foul.

When healthy, he has flashed his potential often, but not consistently.

Heading into next season, the Bulls’ lack of activity to this point in the offseason has some pointing to Williams’ ability to take the next step as the key for next season along with improved health overall.

Working on his Game

Last we saw, Williams was dropping back-to-back 20-point outings in the playoffs against the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bulls were overmatched in the series. But the performances – which included a double-double – further validated his end to the regular season.

Williams dropped 35 points and hit 3-of-4 threes in the Bulls’ regular-season finale.

LaVine, fresh off of signing his $215 max contract, was meeting with the media when he was asked about Williams.

“I think every player should try to take a next step. It’s not just Pat. Everybody on the team needs to take a next step…You can’t just try to put one guy to take a step. Pat’s great. Pat’s going to continue to work on his game and get better and better. He’s out here right now in Vegas working out early in the morning. He’s been to California. He’s been in Chicago. So, Pat’s working on his game. But everybody on the team needs to take a step. Even from the best guy on the team to the 12th man. You need to take a step and upgrade your game and I think that’s how teams get better.”

Williams trained with DeMar DeRozan earlier this offseason learning how to develop a routine.

We have also seen pictures of him in the gym and with teammates in Las Vegas taking in summer league action.

Bulls Banking On It

LaVine is correct in his assessment that everyone on the team will need to be better. Health will certainly go a long way in that. But the Bulls have invariably bet on Williams’ ascension into the player they took with the fourth-overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.

The Bulls have practiced extreme patience with the first draft pick of team vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas’ tenure.

They even refused to include him in a trade for Rudy Gobert, killing any potential deals.

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Sports Illustrated’s Chris Herring chose Williams as his top contender for the 2022-23 Most Improved Player award during the July 11 episode of the “Open Floor” podcast.

“He looks the part just as far as his size and everything”, Herring said, “I just kind of feel like he has room to grow. He has the tools. He’s a decent enough shooter. And I think that they’re gonna put more trust in him this year. They’re going to need him to be healthy and to play well to really make a jump. Because they really didn’t get that much outside help this summer.”

His co-host, Michael Pina said that he originally had Williams on his list and said that he wouldn’t trade Williams if he was running the Bulls. He also called Williams “kind of critical” adding that there seemed to be “untapped potential” for the Bulls’ youngster.

Everybody is Right

LaVine is correct about the entire team needing to improve for next season starting at the top down. The Bulls’ “Big Three” of DeRozan, LaVine, and Nikola Vucevic are great defensively creating unique circumstances in terms of building out this roster.

Williams’ two-way potential is vital to how far this group will ultimately grow, even if it is not the be-all, end-all.

Ideally, he is no better than the fourth option offensively. But he has the potential to be the leading scorer on any given night. The Bulls just need him to be willing to do so on nights when, although healthy, the stars do not have their best performances.

Having to be at the ready offensively while also locking up the opponent’s top option defensively is a lot to ask of any player, let alone one who will turn just 21 years old in August.

But that is the position the Bulls appear to have put themselves in.

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