Bulls rookie Patrick Williams unfazed by star matchups, homecomings

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Rob Schaefer
·4 min read
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Williams stays unfazed by star matchups, homecoming trips originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Patrick Williams is truly a man of steely demeanor.

Thursday afternoon, the rookie returned to his hometown of Charlotte, N.C. for the first time in his NBA career for a road matchup between the Bulls and the Hornets.

"It's always good to be back home," he said after Friday morning shootaround, before pivoting to: "We still got a job to do and we’re here to do that job."

The game will feature one of the three players selected in front of Williams in the 2020 draft, LaMelo Ball. Any jitters for that head-to-head?

"Nah," Williams said, a look of bewilderment on his face. "I'm guarding Gordon Hayward."

Williams did soften a bit reflecting on his preferred food spots in Charlotte -- he's already angling for a postgame Uber Eats order from his personal favorite, Bojangles -- and his bond with the Bulls' fellow North Carolina products, Coby White and Devon Dotson. He said he was able to briefly speak with his parents, who were "super excited" for him to be back in town, for a few minutes at a safe distance.

But asked if he had a reaction to LeBron James' glowing words after their matchup on Jan. 8, the cool visage again took hold.

"I just kinda looked at it as like another job, a game against a tough Lakers team that we gotta play against Saturday (Jan. 23)," Williams said. "My name was called to guard LeBron, so that's what I did. I tried to do as good as I can, but he's a great player so he's gonna make his shots, he's gonna make his plays... I tried to answer the bell."

Williams said he still hasn't read James' postgame comments, in which the Lakers star called him an "exceptional talent" with "Kawhi-like hands." Why would he?

For his poise-beyond-his-years play and diplomatic deflections, Williams has still had his share of rookie moments, according to head coach Billy Donovan.

"Learning about injury reports and having to post injury reports. That was new to him. I know being in college for as long as I was in college, you play twice a week and you have a two or three day ramp-up period in scouting. Now all of a sudden you show up one day and on the second night of a back-to-back you're having a film session for 10 minutes and, like, he's having to absorb all that information. It's just totally different for him," Donovan said. "It's a first going on the road to Charlotte. It's a first playing against LeBron and Giannis (Antetokounmpo) and Paul George and Kawhi (Leonard). It'll be a first going against a guy like Gordon Hayward. I mean, there's just a lot of firsts for him, and he's learning.

"Even so much coming in, diet and nutrition and getting on the table and getting therapy, you know, Why am I going into a cold tank? What does the cold tank do for me?... A lot of times in college he's practicing at 3 o'clock and maybe breakfast wasn't a big deal and now he's having to get up and have practice, and OK why does this help me? What are the reasons behind a lot of these things?"

The good news: "I think he asks a lot of good questions about the Why? part," Donovan added. "You do see a lot of that out of him."

In turn, no starry-eyed effects have translated into his media or on-court dealings. Williams' answer to a question asking him to compare Chicago to Charlotte could have come verbatim from a How to Please the Press 101 textbook.

"I love Chicago. I love the city. I love the supporters of the Bulls, they've been tremendous for us, even though we can't have fans, they've just been supporting us and watching the games, things like that. We definitely feel it even if they're not technically in the arena, in the gym," he said. " the obvious difference is that Chicago is way colder. So just get used to that, get used to the cold, and other than that the city is amazing. I love both cities, so I can't really pick one over the other. But I mean, I do love Chicago."

Wise beyond his years.

RELATED: NBA Rookie Rankings: Haliburton, Ball lead pack after 1 month

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