It’s the first quarter. The Bulls are playing the Lakers, and LeBron James is ready to eat. He’s got the Bulls newest rookie down in the post, back to the basket, time to get some easy buckets. Dribble. Bump for seperation. Turn. Fall. Fire. BANG: two points. It’s looking like an all you can eat buffet down in the post. There must have been 6 feet of separation between him and the rook before the shot even left his hand.
Quarter the second rolls around, and LeBron is back at the buffet. All you can eat, sucka! Back to the basket. Dribble. Bump. Turn. Fall. Fire. Bang: two points. Huh, the kid just took the bump that time, didn’t even budge. Still 3 feet of separation with the turn and the fall-away, buffet’s still open.
It’s the third quarter and that hungry sonofabitch LeBron is back in line for the rookie buffet. Ball in the post. Back to the basket. Dribble. Bump. Turn. Fall. Fire. Swish. Two points. Wait, the kids jumping now, had to angle that shot a little higher. Maybe thirds was a bad idea. Still got my biscuit though.
Fourth quarter, it’s crunch time. This game is a lot closer than it should be. LeBron NEEDS to eat, or maybe the Lakers don’t win this game. Time to line up at that same old, all-you-can-eat rookie buffet. Something’s different this time though, the kid’s lining up with LeBron like he’s hungry too. Ball in the post. Back to the basket. Dribble. Bump. Kid ignores it. Turn. The kid is right up on LeBron’s body. Fall. The kid is already in the air with his long as fork arms stretched to the ceiling. Fire, with this kid’s hand in LeBron’s face, changing the difficulty of this shot, altering it. Clang. Buffet closed.
This is Patrick Williams, the rookie.
He’s quiet, unassuming, and 19 years old.
He’s also a sponge. Soaking up every bit of basketball knowledge he can, both on and off the court. If you watch him during a game, he constantly has a veteran in his ear, letting him know what’s going on. Garrett Temple, Thadd Young, Otto Porter Jr, they all have his ear. And it’s not in-one-ear-out-the-other with this rookie. He’s learning on the fly.
Thrust into the starting lineup during the shortened preseason, with no Summer League, and a very long lay off between his one season of college basketball and the start of his rookie year in the NBA, Patrick Williams has shown himself to be both a professional and potential force to be reckoned with through his first 11 games.
Williams being named a starter was a surprise to me. I thought he’d begin his career coming off the bench behind Otto Porter Jr. But when he took the reins in that third preseason game, it was clear there was no going back.
It makes sense too. Sure, Coach Billy Donovan said all the right things about the importance of Porter coming off the bench, giving the second unit some playmaking, scoring pop, and balance, but in all reality, Patrick Williams is the 1st building block of the new front office. Of course he’s starting.
The funny thing is, I’m not sure what to expect from Williams. Being so young, and having never started in his short college career, but stepping up against some of the toughest competition in the NBA. It’s not just LeBron he’s faced. He’s had to defend both Giannis and Kawhi, and we’re only 11 games into his career.
With as well as he’s played, I feel obligated to ask the question I always seem to ask about Bulls rookies this time of year: Is Patrick Williams the best player on the Chicago Bulls?
The truth is, the kid is good. Not great. Not Rookie of the Year material (yet), but good. Solid. He plays with poise and purpose. He knows what his role is on this team. He’s there to learn and gain experience.
He’ll quietly sit in the corner on offense waiting for a play to be run in his direction. He’ll go, what seems like entire quarters, without touching the basketball on offense, and then all of a sudden you blink and he’s scored the last 7 or 8 points. He rattles in a rainbow corner three. Pump fakes and takes the ball into the lane for a one handed floater. Drives the baseline and pulls up for a mid-range 2.
Williams is a talented basketball player with obvious two-way potential bursting from every fiber of his game.
The Chicago media has jokingly taken to calling him Baby Kawhi.
Patrick Williams is no joke.
The rookie still has a long way to go before he reaches his full potential as an NBAer, but what I’ve seen I’ve liked, particularly his desire to learn and improve. Just the fact that he was able to make that in-game adjustment against one of the greatest basketball players to ever lace them up. The fact that he was able to contest a nearly incontestable shot, against one of the greatest of all time, without fouling, shows just how much potential for greatness Williams has himself.
I hope this new coaching staff and front office can help him grow to be more than just “Baby Kawhi.” I hope he gets to grow into himself.
Until he does, thanks for reading and GO BULLS!