The questions aren’t just going to go away.
The verbiage may be different, the timing of when they’re asked has changed, but Patrick Williams wasn’t about to get the free pass he received as a rookie or even last season when he was a second-year player battling through major left wrist surgery.
Compounded when that player is the fourth overall pick in the draft like Williams was in 2020.
And while the 21-year-old continued saying all the right things – like he did again on Wednesday – it’s getting to the point where actions carry the day, while words are starting to sound empty.
Especially in the wake of his latest preseason debut in which he shot 2-of-7, scored just five points, and looked out-classed by 2019 first-round pick Zion Williamson.
So does he even understand his importance in this organization’s success moving forward?
Not only did he reiterate that he did, but admitted that there was a growing pressure with that.
“It’s definitely different,” Williams said of that pressure this season. “Whether it’s [the media], my teammates, my coaching staff, they’re all just telling me to be aggressive. Not really because I was a certain pick or anything like that, but just because I have the talent to. Whether I was the fourth pick or the 40th pick, if you have the talent, you have the size, guys are going to want you to do it. When I [am aggressive], we’re a better team, and I’m a better player.”
A point that DeMar DeRozan has been trying to get Williams to buy into since last year.
While some in the Bulls organization wanted to undersell his passiveness, DeRozan chose to live in reality.
It was DeRozan who spent a week this summer taking Williams into his workout world, and DeRozan who set the bar of what this 2022-23 campaign has to look like for his younger teammate.
“It’s big,” DeRozan said of Williams’ expected jump. “And I told him that. Even before the season ended last year, I was telling him how important this summer is for him.
“Me telling him that wasn’t to put pressure on him. It was more so giving him the comfort of him understanding what he can do on the court.”
But something seems to continually get lost in translation.
While Tuesday was a meaningless preseason game, what remained alarming was Williams said he understood what he needed to do on the court, but again didn’t deliver. Too many passive moments, too many possessions of being a backseat passenger very content with the seating arrangement.
“I think for Patrick his focus and concentration needs to be totally from the shoulders up,” coach Billy Donovan said. “That’s where it is. Sometimes you see a guy like [rookie] Dalen [Terry Tuesday] night, he’s just innately [aggressive] … you know what I mean. Sometimes Patrick can overthink, over-analyze and when he does get to that place where he’s maybe thinking too much or he’s not being instinctive, and then he gets to that point where he looks passive. And I think that’s something that he’ll have to continue to grow and get better at. That’s where the challenge is.”
But changing who he is comes with some difficulty. Williams said he knew that and it was being addressed daily.
“Mentally, it’s a huge part of it, what you tell yourself,” Williams said. “The self-talk you have with yourself throughout the game. I’ve been trying to focus on that.”
Hopefully for Williams and the Bulls it works soon, because the questions aren’t going away.