Bulls' Patrick Williams on upcoming restricted free agency: ‘I love it here'

Bulls' Patrick Williams on upcoming restricted free agency: ‘I love it here' originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

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Patrick Williams said he hopes to be back on the court in July as part of his rehabilitation process following his upcoming left foot surgery.

Coincidentally, the NBA calendar begins a new year on July 1 and the business of basketball opens. In this case, that’s Williams’ restricted free agency.

“I don’t think anybody knows what their future is to be honest. I would love to continue to be a Bull. I love it here. I love the opportunity we have to build culture, to build something special with this group and this team. I think I could really be a cornerstone piece for this team,” Williams said Saturday at the Advocate Center. “But you never know what the future holds, and I understand it’s a business.

“Like I said, I love it here. I love the team. I love the guys. I love the front office. For now, worry about the surgery and getting back playing and let the chips fall where they may. . . . Nobody has really even talked about contract stuff. It’s more so about getting me back healthy, which I appreciate.”

Williams turned down a contract proposal before the season and previously said---before this injury---that he had no regrets doing so. Sources at the time indicated the Chicago Bulls’ offer was in the neighborhood of four years for $64 million with a team option, though it’s unknown if that represented a take-it-or-leave it proposal or was part of the ongoing negotiations. It’s believed Williams sought a deal in the vicinity of De’Andre Hunter’s four-year, $90 million deal with Atlanta but also might’ve come down to $20 million annually.

Either way, Williams said he’s not nervous about his upcoming restricted free agency.

“I think I know what I showed when I was healthy this season. I think I know who I am as a player and what I’m capable of,” Williams said. “Nervous isn’t the word. I’m kind of excited to see what happens and to get back to playing.”

Williams now has had two of his four seasons cut short to surgery. He averaged 10 points in 43 games this season, shooting 39.9 percent from 3-point range. In December, Williams averaged 14.1 points while shooting 50 percent from 3-point range.

“November, December, we had a lot of guys out. Zach (LaVine) was out. Vooch (Nikola Vucevic) missed a couple games. DeMar (DeRozan) missed a couple games. TCraig (Torrey Craig) was in and out. AC (Alex Caruso) was in and out. So I think it opened a lot of opportunity for guys to be more on the ball. Me, Ayo (Dosunmu) and Coby (White), AC, I think it allowed us to kind of show what we can do, kind of see how that felt to be more on the ball,” Williams said. “I think I got a lot more pick-and-rolls in that span, a lot more closeouts in that span, a lot more (dribble handoffs) and drags in that span just because we down bodies.

“For me, it was super fun to develop that way, kind of know what it feels like to be out there and come back to practice and replicate that feeling and get lost in the progression of things. This injury, I don’t think it throws a wrench in it at all. I think it’s the same mindset. I know what it felt like. I know what it looked like. I now have those moments I can go back to and recall and watch the film---what I did well, what I didn’t do well. For me, it’s a shift in mindset, not a wrench in it.

“Definitely feel like (December) was stepping into who I am as a player, you know what I mean? I was able to get every facet that I think I can into the game. I think there was another step or two I could’ve taken. That’s why I was so excited to get back this season, just knowing what we needed. Just watching the game and knowing what I can bring to the game, bring to the team. Obviously, that won’t happen this season. For me, it’s keeping that stride, not taking a step back. . . . I think this season I got experience and that’s all you can ask for. I think I’m taking a step into being the player I can be.”

His teammates and coaches agree.

“Pat is a pretty unique guy because he has a bunch of diverse skill sets. He can play small ball 4. He can play almost 2 guard at times the way he shoots it,” Alex Caruso said. “And then defensively, his range is 1-4 when he’s locked in.

“Even through the end of last year once he started to get some consistent minutes and play well, he was finding his rhythm. He was shooting 40 percent from 3. I think we were trying to get him to take more. That’s the kind of player he is. He’s trying to make sure the team is flowing and gelling and we were trying to get him to be a little more selfish. But I think he was doing a good job of almost being a more aggressive scorer in that second unit for us. He was putting his head down and getting to the nail and would rise up and take that little floater. He was starting to get on the offensive rebounding a lot better and being aggressive attacking the rim.

“That was stuff that we were missing that he really does well for you. And then really too defensive rebounding, he’s so athletic and strong that he helped us clean up a lot of that stuff too. It sucks for him. We feel for him. He’s one of the nicest guys I’ve ever been around as a teammate. He wants everybody else to be OK and be right. And he’s the one who can’t get right right now. So we’re feeling for him and we’re there for him.”

This support is why Williams’ restricted free agency will be intriguing. His qualifying offer is close to $13 million as it stands, but obviously he will be seeking multi-year security.

“I think he was playing well,” coach Billy Donovan said. “The biggest thing for him was the uncertainty when he realized he was going to have to make a decision on what was the course of action, and I do feel like he’s very, very optimistic and hopeful he gets this surgery and gets back on the court playing fully cleared. In his mind he now feels he has the whole summer where he can work and get himself back ready for next year.

“Now there’s a path for him. He knows hopefully by July 1, I’m fully cleared and ready and have (summer) to really get myself ready. . . . I do think he will need the support well after the surgery. He has a lot of support right now and then has to go through the rehabilitation that’s when we really have to help him.”

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