The ultra-talented 19-year-old continued to show flashes of brilliance throughout the first half on Saturday, but then again turned it off as the Bulls blew a lead and fell in Atlanta. His coach and teammates want him to embrace a killer instinct, but it’s proving to be easier said than done.
Patrick Williams was finally acting like a typical 19-year-old on a Saturday night.
His All-Star parents were out for the evening, the house was all his, and the Bulls forward seemed to embrace doing whatever he wanted.
So exactly which neighbor called the police at halftime?
And with just eight games left in the regular season – and in Williams’ rookie campaign – there’s the frustration with the No. 4 overall pick.
Too many flashes of brilliance only to be doused by quarter after quarter of satisfaction in taking a backseat and then explaining away as “making the right play.’’
Without All-Stars Zach LaVine (health and safety protocol) and Nikola Vucevic (right adductor) available against the Hawks on Saturday, Williams needed to realize that he was the most talented Bulls player on the floor.
For the first half he did, going 5-for-8 from the field for 15 points, having opposing defenders bounce off him when he attacked the rim, and hitting two smooth-looking three-pointers.
And more importantly, the Bulls were in command on the scoreboard, up by nine and looking to pull off the must-win game.
Williams finished the night 7-for-13 with 19 points in an 11-point Bulls loss.
“I think we all get lost in the fact that he’s a teenager,’’ veteran teammate Thad Young said of Williams. “We try to instill adult-like stuff into him. Sometimes guys are ready for that, and sometimes guys are not.
“Some of the stuff that he does that we think is spectacular, he doesn’t even know is spectacular. He just thinks it’s just a regular play that he’s done. And we’re, like, ‘No, that was amazing. Whatever you just did, keep doing more of that.’ And he’s, like, ‘Oh, OK.’ He’s going to continue to get better, but I think the mindset is we just have to continue to teach him is he can be a starting-type player in this league with work and with a certain mindset, a killer-instinct mindset.’’
Not an easy transition for certain rookies, but one that has to be made if Williams wants to be an elite two-way player in this game someday.
Look at what Kings rookie Tyrese Haliburton has been doing his last five games. Different body type obviously, different position, but a suddenly killer-instinct mindset that has him averaging 18 points and 8.4 assists per game, with Sacramento going 3-2 in that time, with wins over Dallas and the Lakers.
Look at Anthony Edwards most of the second half of the season, but specifically the last seven games, as the Timberwolves have gone 5-2 with him averaging 22 points per game.
Williams has the physical tools to score at that clip, and still be the defensive stopper he so badly wants to be.
“I’ve always felt like every level you go up in the game of basketball, whether you go from high school to college, college to the NBA, the hardest thing to learn is when do I shoot and when do I pass,’’ coach Billy Donovan said. “There are times when he tries to be aggressive and it doesn’t work out well and maybe he will back away just because he’s a team guy. And there are other times I just try to thrust him into it and say, ‘You gotta go, you have to go and you have to be aggressive.’ ‘’
It’s beyond that time for Williams now. The season is all but slipping away, and he has to be aggressive.
“I’m trying to be aggressive,’’ Williams said. “But kind of like I said, it’s a learning experience, for sure. We have some more games to go, so hopefully I can continue to get better at that.’’