Why Bulls rookie Patrick Williams' education must feature more 2-way play

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K.C. Johnson
·4 min read
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What Patrick Williams can learn from trip to Kawhi school originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Patrick Williams said he watches film of his matchups against elite players 10 to 20 times to see what he can incorporate into his game.

Hopefully, Williams picks up on the part where his primary defensive assignment, Kawhi Leonard, mastered the art of the midrange.

The Bulls don't need Williams to shoot 21 times like Leonard did in the Los Angeles Clippers' methodical manhandling of the Bulls Friday night at the United Center. But Leonard's masterful 33-point performance in the Clippers' 125-106 victory featured 13-for-15 shooting from 2-point range and stood in stark contrast to Williams taking just five shots.

"I think that's going to be the evolution of him," coach Billy Donovan said. "He's got to be able to stay involved and put pressure on the defense. We tried to run something for him coming out of the third quarter to get him aggressive on a drive. They did a good job guarding it. He did try to drive the ball a couple times. He got fouled one time going to the basket. But I think him playing downhill, doing a little bit more, that's what we need him to do.

"Listen, there's a lot coming at him. And he obviously had a hard matchup."

Don't read this as criticism of Williams, who accepts such assignments with focus and without complaint. Without the benefit of summer league or even a normal training camp, Williams, the league's youngest player, already has guarded Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James and Leonard -- the latter two twice.

Welcome to the NBA, indeed.

But for Williams to become the elite two-way he aspires to be, he can't settle for five shots and 3 points in 35 minutes, no matter how difficult the defensive assignment is.

"Nothing's easy in this league. But for sure, when you work so hard on the defensive end, when it comes to the offensive end, it's kinda, that's your time to rest. But the player that I want to be and the person that I want to be in this league, I have to be able to do it on both ends," Williams said. "Like Kawhi, he's really good on both ends. So just watch his film, get better from it."

Williams said the defensive game plan accounted for a more aggressive Leonard since the Clippers played without Paul George. Still, Leonard, as elite players do, got to his spots too comfortably.

"That's on me," Williams said.

This always is Williams' first instinct -- to look inward. He also broadens questions about his individual play to the team construct. These all are admirable traits and why even rough nights like Friday can be instructional and educational.

"Thad (Young) in the beginning when I first got here told me, 'Learn from the good days but also learn from the days when you don't do so well, where you really gotta sit yourself down and be better your next outing, whether it's practice or whether it's games,'" Williams said. "Of course, I didn't do as well as I could have. But not to make it about myself, as a team I think we dropped the ball in some areas. And we just gotta watch the film and get better from it."

The Bulls have an off day scheduled Saturday. Here's betting that it won't be all rest for Williams. The film room at the Advocate Center could be getting a workout.

"I want to be great in this league. And I think my teammates and my coaching staff have the confidence that I will be really good or great in this league," Williams said. "I do it for me, but I also do it for them. Just to let them know that as much confidence as they have in me, I have that much confidence in myself. And that confidence comes through film, that confidence comes through the work.

"I just want to be there for them. I think (Friday), I wasn't completely there for them, defensively or offensively. I didn't hold up my end of the bargain. I don't want that to happen again. So, I'll do whatever it takes."

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