‘I have to be better’


Williams on disappearing act: ‘I have to be better’ originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

NEW YORK — With 1 minute, 24 seconds left in the Chicago Bulls’ troubling loss to the Knicks, Alex Caruso fouled out.

Coach Billy Donovan inserted Javonte Green, not Patrick Williams.

Granted, Williams only was playing his fifth game since missing close to five months following wrist surgery. But if there’s ever a statement on where this critical second season for Williams stands, there it is.

“Defensively, him getting his legs back under him and dealing with someone like a (RJ) Barrett or (Alec) Burks that’s really good off the dribble, that’s something I think he’s going to probably have to catch up to a little more,” Donovan said by way of explanation.

Remember: This is a player touted by management to potentially possess two-way talent, a difference maker at both ends. And while it may be a stretch to ask much offensively from a young player who missed so much time, defense is where Williams established himself last season, guarding the likes of LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Nevertheless, in Williams’ impressive first game back against the Raptors, he logged 19 minutes. Since then, the fourth overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft has played 18, 17, 14 and 13 minutes.

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“That’s not my job to decide when I play,” Williams said matter-of-factly, not maliciously. “If it was my job, I think everybody on the team would want to play 40 minutes. My job is to be ready whenever my name is called. I think I can do a better job with that. It’s not all on Coach. I have to be better. I have to defend better. It’s on me for sure.”

Before the game, Donovan talked about the need for Williams to more consistently make teams “feel” him. That means running the floor with purpose, using his size and athleticism to pressure teams offensively and get into opponents defensively.

On the plus side, Donovan pointed to utilizing Williams in the middle of the floor where he found Coby White for an open 3-point attempt that White missed. But Williams also committed a turnover and somehow played close to 13 minutes without attempting a shot.

“That’s on me,” Williams said. “Coach can’t control my shots.”

Williams doesn’t necessarily need to be a gunner for a team that employs DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic. But like in that impressive game against the Raptors, in which he took eight shots in 19 minutes, he needs to establish himself as a presence.

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Too often last season—and again on Monday night—he disappears in the offense.

“It’s not moving too fast. It’s a lot slower than it was last year,” Williams said of the speed of the game. “It’s more trying to translate what I saw on film to actually live in the game. . . . The rhythm, the flow, it takes awhile.”

Williams said he feels good physically, although his conditioning isn’t fully back.

The Knicks’ bench outscored the Bulls’ reserves 28-11. This, too, is a troubling trend that could impact the Bulls during the playoffs. DeRozan, LaVine and Vucevic did their jobs, combining for 80 points, 23 rebounds and 11 assists.

The Bulls’ bench—and Williams—needs to step up.

“I talk to him every day,” DeRozan said. “Things are just coming so fast. It sucks that he had to miss so many games. Now all of a sudden, you throw him in the midst of the chaos. It seems like we struggle having to understand the small detail things you normally would learn throughout the season.

“It’s a tough task for him right now. He’s going to have to catch up fast. That’s another guy you just gotta stay on him. He’s a willing learner, asks questions.”

He’s creating some too.

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