Bulls' Patrick Williams gets starry-eyed talking about improved game

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Williams gets starry-eyed talking about improved game originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The conversation began with a focus on Patrick Williams’ improved 3-point shooting and what happened for it to jump from 35.3 percent on 2.4 attempts per game in October to 50 percent on 3.3 attempts this month.

As often happens with a player known on the Chicago Bulls for his self-reflection, the conversation quickly broadened.

“I told you I was going to figure it out. I think I’m still figuring it out. But I’m 100 percent locked in on being the player that I want to be,” Williams said following Sunday’s practice at the Advocate Center. “I always felt I had what it took to be a really good player in this league. But now I’m starting to feel like I have what it takes to be a star and a superstar in this league. I’m kind of trying to take that role on and build on it day-by-day.

“I think it’s definitely a team effort. Guys have been telling me this since my rookie year and before that since high school and college. Kind of trying to take it in my own mind now and show that on the court.”

Indeed, just as Williams’ 3-point shooting has improved, so has his overall game. His scoring has jumped from 7.1 points in October to 11.3 points this month, while his rebounding averages has increased from 2 to 5.2 per game.

His consistent defensive effort was most recently on full display in his physical matchup with Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, whom he blocked twice at the rim during the Bulls' pre-Thanksgiving victory.

“I think I started out in a slump, and I got myself out of that. Obviously, the coaching staff and talking to my teammates definitely helped. But I think I got myself out of that just mentally,” Williams said. “That’s definitely hard to do in this league, especially when you don’t know how you’re going to play game-to-game. So I just tried to take it in my own hands and say if anybody is going to get myself out of this, it’s going to be me.

“I know it hurts the team when I don’t play as well on either end. I’m pretty proud of myself just in terms of how I went about it. Tried to be the same guy each day I came in here and continued to talk to my teammates.

“When you’re in a slump, it’s kind of easy to get into yourself and kind of shy away from the team and think you’re letting other guys down. I tried not to do that. I tried to be more cognizant of who I am as a person when it’s not going well. Know that every obstacle you go through, you can turn into an advantage. That’s what I tried to do in life and in basketball.”

So apparently Williams isn’t merely suddenly adept at deep shooting but also some deep thinking.

But as far as that 3-point stroke, Williams’ lack of hesitation on it is noticeable. He’s stepping into shots and letting them fly. Most of this, he said, is attributed to comfort level within the offense.

“I think it’s a combination of you put the work in over the summer and your routine throughout every day during the grind of the season. You focus on shooting. Focus on where you’re getting your shots from,” Williams said. “I think it’s pretty easy honestly just with the guys that we have. Post up Vooch (Nikola Vučević). DeMar (DeRozan) and Zach (LaVine) in pick-and-roll, (opponents) have to help. And if they don’t, they’re in trouble. So if they help, guys get off the ball and they’re trusting you to shoot it or make a play. That’s what I try to do.

“Obviously, the season goes on and you get the gist of where your shots come from. You kind of know, ‘OK, when I catch it here, these are open shots.’ You get a gist of the way teams guard certain things. You know when you catch it, it’s either shoot it or drive it. Half the time, they’re so far pulled in, you have to shoot it. I feel I’ve always been a pretty decent shooter from 3. Try to keep it above 40 percent. Make sure I’m efficient.”

Williams is now at 45.6 percent overall on 3 attempts per game.

“We had a new offense,” Williams said. “We knew it was going to take time for everybody to get acclimated to it and be comfortable in it. I think we still have steps to go in that end. But I think everybody is getting more comfortable in their role and what their role is and where their shots are coming from and what type of actions they’re going to be in. It’s a matter of playing more games.”

Both on the court and in one’s mind.

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