Bulls' Patrick Williams starting to meet teammates' expectations


Williams starting to meet teammates' expectations originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

There's a play from the Chicago Bulls' road victory over the Orlando Magic that's making the social media rounds.

Zach LaVine drives and kicks to an open Patrick Williams, who eschews an open corner 3-pointer to pass out to Nikola Vucevic, who promptly buries his own 3-pointer. The microphone underneath the basket clearly catches LaVine screaming in disbelief that Williams passed up the shot.

Asked after Monday's practice at the Advocate Center if he had heard LaVine in real time, Williams smiled.

"It was hard not to," Williams said.

In other words, add LaVine to the list giving Williams "verbal abuse" whenever he's not playing aggressively enough.

Just last week, DeMar DeRozan used that phrase lightheartedly to hammer home the same point.

"I think you all don't see how much I get on his nerves," DeRozan said then. "Like, really get on his nerves. If he plays bad or doesn't compete like the way I know he can compete, it's verbal abuse."

There's a simple reason why Williams' teammates hold him to this standard: With his skill level and athleticism, they know his potential. And they also know what Williams reaching his potential will do for the Bulls.

"It's been that way from the jump. But especially now that I've made a couple shots and am playing pretty well, the guys want to see that continue," Williams said, "I could've shot it. But I saw Vooch. Luckily, Vooch made it. Because if he didn't, Zach would've had a problem."

Don't look now but, with a string of several recent strong performances that has featured double-digit scoring in six of his last seven games, Williams is averaging in double figures for the first time in his young career. He's also shooting 41.2 percent from 3-point range on increased volume of 3.6 attempts per game.

"This has been a whole year where you can see a steady incline in his progress," coach Billy Donovan said.

Recently, after his first double-double of the season and just the fifth of his career, Donovan challenged Williams to become a more consistent rebounder, to reach double digit rebounds more consistently.

Now, Donovan's next ask is for Williams to get to the free-throw line more.

"It's really hard to become an elite scorer and not get to the free-throw line," Donovan said. "That's the next evolution for him."

The point is: For every step of progression that Williams is making---Donovan said, past his consistently solid shooting, that Williams is reading closeouts better---there is still room to grow. Averages of 4.3 rebounds and 1.3 free-throw attempts per game can grow.

That's the potential that Williams possesses.

"I love this game because you always have an opportunity to get better," Williams said. "That's what drew me to this game and keeps me going. I love to see myself get better and the progress I make day in and day out."

As consistent of an open, catch-and-shoot weapon as Williams is becoming, Donovan said he doesn't necessarily want Williams taking more of such shots. Obviously, take those that are open. But Donovan also would like to see Williams take fewer pullup midrange shots after attacking closeouts.

"What I think Patrick can do for our team is generate more catch-and-shoot 3-point opportunities for others by driving more," Donovan said. "Yes, we want him shooting when he's open. But they're going to be catch-and-shoot.

"There are opportunities where he drives and takes one or two dribbles and he takes that pullup jumper that he's good at. But there are times he can get deeper at the rim and kick it out or get fouled and finish at the basket. That would help us too."

Williams appreciates the trust his teammates and coaches have in him. He said the game is slowing down for him and he's enjoying the benefit of playing every game after only logging 17 games last season because of the fractured wrist following Grayson Allen's flagrant foul.

Williams has played in all 49 games this season after playing in 71 of 72 his rookie season. He still only has played 137 NBA games.

"You put the work in and it's bound to show," Williams said. "For me, I don't think I really ever shot a bad percentage from 3. It's just more so taking the ones I get. I'm still passing up a couple to get from a good shot to a great shot. I've always had these opportunities. I'm just starting to see them more."

And when he doesn't, his teammates will remind him.

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