Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
NASHVILLE, Tenn. --- When DeMar DeRozan met the media following Tuesday’s practice at Belmont University and fielded questions about how Patrick Williams fared at DeRozan’s notorious offseason workouts, DeRozan initially misunderstood the question.
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“I thought you were saying was he better than me and I was gonna say hell nah,” DeRozan said, smiling.
Williams, standing within earshot, interjected.
“Who was better at 22?” the fourth-year forward said, also smiling.
“Y’all can check the stats,” DeRozan said, now laughing.
DeRozan averaged 16.7 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2 assists for the 2011-12 Toronto Raptors in his age 22 season. Whether or not Williams can match or surpass those statistics remains to be seen.
But the fact Williams attended DeRozan’s Los Angeles-based boot camp for the second straight summer is a start. Perhaps more telling is Williams interjecting his witty rejoinder during DeRozan’s media session, another example of the comfort and confidence Williams is displaying as he finds his voice.
“He still gotta talk more,” DeRozan said. “But you can tell he’s a lot more personable now.
“That means everything, him being vocal, him showing a little more bravado. I’m hoping he gets a (technical foul) this year. If he gets a tech this year, one I’ll pay it and two, y’all see how far he done came.”
Williams remains the X-factor for the 2023-24 Bulls. If he builds on his 2022-23 season and shows even more aggressiveness, perhaps he can match DeRozan’s numbers from long ago.
More importantly, Williams’ continued development can help him achieve his answer when asked what his goal is for this season.
“Win,” Williams said.
What about individually?
“Win,” Williams repeated. “I come from Florida State. You guys know my stats there don’t match up to the fourth pick. It just doesn’t. Talent-wise, for sure I deserve to be the fourth pick. But I truly believe winning takes care of everything.”
DeRozan has taken Williams under his wing since his arrival. Management has publicly placed the onus on Williams to take the next step.
But Williams is emphatic about one thing as he enters a year in which he’s eligible to have his rookie contract extended.
“I don’t think anything has gone wrong,’’ Williams said. “I feel extremely, extremely comfortable where I am now going into my fourth year. I’m not ashamed of … I’m actually pretty proud of the steps I’ve taken to get to this point. I think I’ve put myself into a really good position going into my fourth year to show what I can do.’’
Player development isn’t a linear path. Different players develop at different speeds. Williams continues to put the work in to try to reach his potential.
“Consistency is going to be a big factor of it,’’ Williams said. “Being more consistent rebounding, pushing the ball, being aggressive in transition, creating off the dribble, catch-and-shoots. Just a more forceful me. I’ve shown it all. Now I think it’s time to put the puzzle together.”
Where Williams fits in coach Billy Donovan’s lineup puzzle remains to be seen. Donovan said Williams worked with the first unit during Tuesday’s practice but that he likely would take a look at Torrey Craig in that role on Wednesday. And Alex Caruso also will log some minutes at power forward.
All Donovan will commit to is that Williams will play an “integral role” during this season. Donovan also said he has entertained the idea of starting Williams but then staggering his minutes to that he plays against the opposing team’s second unit, where Williams experienced success over last season’s final 17 games.
“I think every player wants to start,” Williams said. “But I want to come in and play my game, however that plays out with the coaching staff. Part of being on a team is you have to trust the people you’re on a team with. You have to trust the plan they have for you. You might have to sacrifice.”