Bulls development hits a sink hole with Coby White and Patrick WilliamsJoe Cowleyon October 31, 2021 at 8:23 pm

Short-term the Bulls might be OK without White and Williams this season, but long-term the injuries they are dealing with are a big step back in their development.

At some point in November, Coby White and his surgically-repaired shoulder will be re-evaluated and given an updated timeline.

Maybe December, maybe it will carry on into January, but the guard is expected back at some point in the regular season.

Patrick Williams isn’t as fortunate.

The Bulls power forward had surgery on Sunday to repair torn ligaments in his left wrist, and was given a recovery time of four-to-six months. Best-case scenario, he can make it back late in the regular season, and into the postseason if the Bulls can reach that finish line. Worst-case? His second season is a wash.

That’s a problem currently staring this organization in the face.

The 2021-22 campaign was essential for the continued development of the organization’s last two high first-round draft picks. Spending more time in the training room than on the court was never the plan for White and Williams.

“Anytime you lose good players it’s tough,” coach Billy Donovan said. “Both those guys were key pieces going into this year. Coby is obviously going to play this year at some point. Their development, especially with a veteran group, would have been really important. Anytime you lose good players, any team, there’s things you have to overcome.

“The biggest thing is I just don’t know, because I really haven’t seen Coby yet against any contact, how far is he set back in terms of getting back to his normal what he’s been? And did he lose a development piece with this injury and being out so many months. And the same thing with Patrick. Not only is he losing a season, but he’s losing a period to develop.”

Credit the organization for building a roster in the offseason that can cover up those losses short-term.

The additions of Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso moved White down the depth chart a few spots anyway, while Williams was off to a slow start, and was arguably being outplayed by reserve Javonte Green.

Long-term, however, continuing to develop White and Williams was a high priority for executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas.

That was one of the secret sauces for Denver when Karnisovas was an assistant general manager. Draft smart, but develop smarter.

White was selected No. 7 overall in the 2019 draft, while Williams was No. 4 overall in the 2020 draft. A franchise picking that high can miss on one top 10 pick from a development standpoint, but having the growth of back-to-back top 10 picks stunted in the same season? That’s rough to overcome.

That’s the Bulls’ reality, however.

No wonder Donovan and several veteran players were concerned with Williams’ mindset as he starts the rehab process. Enough so that forward DeMar DeRozan gifted Williams a book called “The Undefeated Mind” to help him through the process.

“That book just taught me a lot about just being calm, how to channel my energy, how to stay even-keeled through the ups and downs,” DeRozan said. “Understanding that life, you can’t pick and choose when you’re going to have a good or bad day. So when those days come, understanding how to channel your energy. I think it will be something that’s beneficial.”

As will keeping Williams and White in the same head space. Donovan feels that the two can lean on each other with White finishing up his rehab and Williams in the early stages of it.

“I think we’ve got to as best we can organizationally help those guys get back and utilize this time as best they can,” Donovan said. “But it’s certainly not the most ideal situation for their development.”

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