Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
TORONTO --- Patrick Williams slipped back into the starting lineup Wednesday night in Oklahoma City.
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But whenever Zach LaVine returns from his foot soreness, whether that’s Friday against the Raptors or Sunday against the Brooklyn Nets, Williams likely will return to his reserve role.
Now is an intriguing time to analyze Williams’ demotion because he has played 187 minutes in his nine reserve appearances and 181 minutes in his seven starts.
As a starter, Williams is averaging 5.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 25.8 minutes while shooting just 28.3 percent, including 17.4 percent from 3-point range.
As a reserve, Williams is averaging 6.4 points, 3 rebounds and 1 assist in 20.8 minutes while shooting 37 percent, including 37.5 percent from 3-point range.
So Williams’ scoring is up in fewer minutes, although that’s also a reflection of his better shooting splits. Asked following Friday’s morning shootaround at Scotiabank Arena if he feels he has more opportunity with the second unit, Williams didn’t hesitate.
“100 percent. That’s just the natural way of basketball and the way this team is,” he said. “You have three All-Stars. They need the ball. We need them to have the ball in order for us to win. I think that limits the opportunities for anybody else in that first unit.”
And Williams insists the demotion hasn’t impacted him mentally.
“Confidence is not a problem for me,” he said. “I know who I am. I know what I can do. I know what I bring to the table. I’m 100 percent confident in what I can do at both ends.
“I’m trying to rebound more. Defensively, I always give 110 percent effort. I’m trying to be more aggressive in transition, shoot more in catch-and-shoots.”
The flip side to this discussion is that Williams reclaiming his starting spot would be most beneficial for the long-term health of the franchise. Management said as much this offseason when both general manager Marc Eversley and executive vice president Arturas Karnisovas emphasized how important this season would be for Williams.
“This year is the year where he really needs to step it up and figure it out,” Eversley said in August.
Williams said he didn’t know about those public comments because he doesn’t read stuff and because it’s not like he hasn’t heard similar comments in private conversations with the front office that selected him fourth overall in 2020.
“It’s for sure a good thing. I’ve talked to them about it. This is my fourth year in the NBA, third year playing. It’s that time. I know I can. I know I will. It’s a matter of turning what’s said and what’s felt into what’s actually happening on the court,” he said. “That’s the bridge we’re trying to build now.”
Does Williams envision that happening with the Bulls? After all, it took a change of scenery for players like Lauri Markkanen and, to a lesser extent, Wendell Carter Jr. to fully flourish.
“I don’t see a reason why not,” Williams said. “Obviously, we’re struggling as a team and trying to find some wins. And my role has fluctuated. But there’s always a solution.
“We’ve tried different lineups. We’ve tried different offensive plays. We’ve tried different defensive schemes. We’re trying to find our groove. It’s a long season. The teams that win find that consistency. That’s what we’re searching for. For me, winning is the ultimate thing.”