Patrick Williams

Bulls' Patrick Williams search for consistent aggressiveness continues

Billy Donovan pulled fourth-year forward early from preseason game because of slow start

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Replacing Patrick Williams with Torrey Craig in the first quarter is normal for the Chicago Bulls, allowing Williams to stagger his minutes to play some against the opponent's second team.

Pulling Williams just 2 minutes, 45 seconds after tipoff, as coach Billy Donovan did in the Bulls' preseason loss to the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday, isn't normal.

And Donovan confirmed the quick hook resulted from him not liking the way Williams opened the game.

"I just thought there were a lot of opportunities for him to get to the backboard and offensive rebound," Donovan said. "We talked about it. And I just didn't like the way we came out. It's not about him missing or making shots or being aggressive. I think athletically there are things he can get in.

"Like, there was an opportunity on one of the first possessions where he could've laid a really good screen. And he tried to slip out of it. We can't run away from physicality. You're going to have to lean into it."

Donovan said he talked to Williams after the early hook. Asked what Donovan's overall message was, Williams downplayed the exchange. And Donovan later added that the team's overall lack of energy early can't solely be pinned on Williams.

Donovan also lauded the way Williams finished the game. He played with much more aggressiveness in the fourth quarter. And working against second- and third-team players, Williams made a strong move to attack the rim before missing a driving layup with the Bulls down by one and 11.5 seconds left.

"As the game wore on, and certainly in the fourth quarter, I thought he was way more aggressive trying to go to the backboard and trying to get to the rim on finishes," Donovan said. "He took his shots when they were there. That was good.

"Hopefully these are learning experiences for him. Certainly, he has shown he can do it. We've got to find a way to continually get that pulled out of him. . . . He's got to be way more aggressive in some areas."

Enter Craig, who said the Bulls "are one of the quietest teams" he's been on, which he added isn't surprising for a team featuring some young players in the rotation.

The veteran wing has joined DeMar DeRozan in trying to push Williams into reaching his potential. One motivator could be taking his playing time. Craig played 27 minutes to Williams' 21.

"I stay in his ear, make sure most everything is positive but show tough love when it's necessary," Craig said. "I think he did a great job responding when he got back in the game. In the fourth quarter, he was aggressive, getting downhill."

Craig authored one of the game's signature plays, chasing down Gary Trent Jr. for a blocked shot on a breakaway dunk attempt.

"The thing with him that we need that's really good is he does not stop talking," Donovan said of Craig. "It's not like he's instructive or giving direction. He's very positive on the bench. And he's constantly communicating on the floor defensively. And he obviously has a high motor and plays with physicality."

Williams finished with 10 points and three rebounds. He scored 20 points on Sunday in Denver on a night that Donovan rested Zach LaVine, DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic.

Williams has said throughout this preseason that becoming more consistent is his main focus this season.

"I might've been overthinking there early on," Williams said. "I think it's still a work in progress. It's still preseason. That's what preseason is for, to find a flow and a feel for the offense and defense. . . . I feel confident where I'm at and what I've been able to show, and also the team."

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