When Patrick Williams disrupted his pulse in October, the last two people he wanted to call were his parents.
He knew they would do too much – insisting on buying tickets for the next flight to Chicago, flooding him relentlessly with care and concern. It’s the burden of being the youngest child of the family, especially for a 20-year-old halfway across the country, away from his family, who suddenly faces the first serious injury of his career.
But Williams did not want anyone to worry. Especially himself. That’s why he did not want to be alone at the same time – worry was harder to chase away when he did not have people around him, when he could not make jokes with teammates or advice from veterans and coaches. .
Before last fall, Williams could not remember ever going more than three days without a basketball in his hands. Even then, it was just to nurse a stuck finger or sore joint. Never by choice. Williams said for weeks he was vibrating from the excitement of getting back on track.
Now that he’s back, the Bulls need all that pent-up energy to translate on the pitch. But in recent games, the second-year forward has been swallowed up by the game in the final weeks of the regular season.
“You throw him in the middle of the chaos and it seems like we’re struggling to understand the small detail things you would normally learn through the season,” veteran DeMar DeRozan said. “It is a difficult task for him at the moment. He’s going to have to catch up fast. You just have to stay with him. ”
Against the New York Knicks on Monday night, the Bulls could not get Williams to do one thing – shoot the ball.
To close out the game, coach Billy Donovan selected Williams over fellow power forward Javonte Green – who surpassed his size as an unexpected starter this season, affecting the defense while averaging 7.3 points per game . But within 13 minutes, Williams had not fired once.
He refused for opportunities around the edge and in the middle. On the defensive side, Williams managed a steal, a block and a setback. But on his attack, he faded into the woodwork. In a must-win game for the Bulls, the former first-round draft pick did not score a single shot or assist.
“It’s up to me,” Williams said after the 109-104 defeat. “I have to be ready when my name is mentioned. Coach can not control my shots. “
During recovery, Williams had one focus – to strengthen his mind. His body was out of his control, but Williams still believed he could use recovery to become a smarter, sharper basketball player.
DeRozan donated to him a copy of “The Undefeated Mind” by Alex Lickerman, which the veteran discovered while repairing a torn adductor at the Toronto Raptors. Williams worked through the book with the team’s sports psychologists. He also taught himself to play chess and watched documentaries about Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant.
Most importantly, Williams spent hours each week studying film on Sports Code. If he watched and analyzed enough film, Williams believed he could grow enough to slow the game down from the overwhelming speed of his rookie season – and he believes this time has paid off in his first five games.
“It’s much slower than it was last year,” Williams said sadly. “It’s more about trying to translate what I saw on film to really live in the game. The rhythm, the flow – it takes a while. ”
Donovan agreed that Williams knows what to do – the problem is getting him to take risks on the job. Although the coach admitted that Williams “has to get his legs back under him” after months off the field, Donovan believes he also struggles with the decision-making required in close match situations.
Williams did not play against the Knicks in the first quarter, and then opened the second quarter with a setback, block and steal on the court in the first three minutes. But that promising start quickly evaporated after Williams thwarted a pass and struggled in his defensive games against Alec Burks and RJ Barrett. It seemed as if every mistake piled up on the young forward’s shoulders, leading to greater reluctance to make the next move.
“The biggest thing for Patrick is when he makes mistakes, he has to move past some of that stuff,” Donovan said. “I’m not saying he was down himself, but he has to move past that.”
The timing of Williams’ learning curve does not benefit the Bulls. Williams said it feels like the first games of his season after starting with an ankle injury that has not been fully repaired. He can definitely benefit from more time for an easier entry into the league. But the Bulls do not have that luxury with barely a week left to clinch their play-off rounds.
With the possibility of play-offs on hand, the Bulls need Williams to return to the core of his identity – a physically assertive two-way player who can elevate the team on both sides of the field.
“Of course I’m not that aggressive,” Williams said. “I can be better defensive, I can hit the ball back better, I can be better on the floor while I am out there. I have to be better. ”