Bulls Make Final Decision on Patrick Williams Pending Return: Report

Patrick Williams

Getty Chicago Bulls forward Patrick Williams handling the ball during an October 28 game against the New York Knicks.

There has debatably been no team hampered down more by injuries this season than the Chicago Bulls, who’ve been without forward Patrick Williams now for 65 games now.

After a stellar rookie season, the 20-year old forward suffered a dislocated left wrist just five games into the season and was ruled out indefinitely.

But on Sunday morning, fans received the good news they’d been waiting for.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that Williams will make his return to the floor for Chicago’s next game on Monday against the Toronto Raptors:

The former fourth overall pick averaged just 6.6 points over his five appearances this season, but started 71 games last season and was considered the Bulls’ best defender–as a rookie.

But what his role will look like moving forward remains largely unclear.

Williams to Play Off the Bench?

Given how long he’s been away and how the Chicago Bulls have had to adapt, there’s currently no set role for Patrick Williams when he returns to the lineup.

Head coach Billy Donovan even gone as far as to suggest (via NBC Sports) that the second-year forward could come off the bench:

If we were whole (when Williams returns), I think the best thing to do with him would be to ease him in and bring him off the bench. That’s just my opinion right now…I don’t think it would be fair to him, just to throw him — with the number of games he’s missed and the amount of months he’s missed — to say, his first game back: ‘Hey, he’s starting.’

Whether or not that will be a long-term installment in head coach Billy Donovan’s rotation will likely depend on the kind of shape Williams returns in.

Because earlier this week, until the 20-year old takes the floor, no one knows what he’s going to look like:

I just don’t know what we’re gonna get. He’s (Williams) really worked hard…I think adding Patrick helps our team. But for a guy that’s missed five months, and the first day he comes back, just to unload him into the starting lineup, I don’t know if that would be the best thing for our team and I don’t know if that would necessarily be fair to Patrick.

That certainly seems most fair to Patrick Williams, and likely what’s best for a Chicago Bulls team that’s lost three straight and eight of their last 10.

But as exciting as his return is, grim news surfaced earlier this week about the outlook on Lonzo Ball’s recovery.

Ball’s Return This Season Uncertain

Point guard Lonzo Ball is no closer to a return for the Chicago Bulls than he was seven weeks ago when he underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee.

Head coach Billy Donovan told reporters (via 670 The Score) on Friday that he’s simply “not responded” to what’s considered the next step for his rehabilitation:

He has not responded. There’s no setbacks. It’s still the same thing. He has not been able to do anything full speed. Any time we get him close to that, there’s discomfort. So I think they’re going to probably have to at least look at do you back off and let him rest for a little bit and see if that helps?

Ball, who Chicago signed to a four-year, $85-million deal last summer, hasn’t played since January 15th.

Previously, he’d averaged 13.0 points, 5.4 rebounds, 5.1 assists, and a career-high 1.8 steals over 35 games played.

As far as where Ball is at in his recovery, Donovan didn’t have much to offer there, either:

…He has not necessarily maybe progressed where he’s been able to get to that place where he’s able to really, really fully sprint, cut and move. He hasn’t gone backward. He just has not been able to go forward far enough to do the things that he’s going to need to be able to do to play.

Ball and the Bulls medical staff will have to address his status for the remainder of this season, as well as the postseason, sooner rather than later.

The point guard’s availability could make or break what they hope will be a deep postseason, if not championship run.

As will the pending return and shape of Patrick Williams.

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