Williams on future with Bulls: “I love it here”

Patrick Williams will become a restricted free agent before the next time he takes the floor in an NBA game.

His future with the Bulls was already uncertain, but season-ending foot surgery added another variable to the equation.

“I would love to continue to be a Bull, I love it here,” Williams said Saturday at the Advocate Center. “I love the opportunity we have to build something special with this group ... and I think I could really be a cornerstone piece for this team. But you never know what the future holds.”

Chances are Williams will stay with the Bulls, but that could be on a one-year qualifying offer or a new long-term contract. The 6-foot-7 forward had the highest-scoring full month of his NBA career in December, when he averaged 14.1 points with a .625 true shooting percentage.

“I thought he was on a good path,” coach Billy Donovan said. “When he was healthy, I thought he made some good positive strides.”

The Bulls have too much invested in Williams to let him walk away. He was the No. 4 overall draft pick in 2020. Their hope is he makes a sizable jump, like Coby White did this season or Lauri Markkanen did once he left the Bulls. Their lineup is also guard-heavy, so losing Williams would leave a gaping hole on the front line.

“We were trying to get him to be a little more selfish,” teammate Alex Caruso said. “But I think he was doing a good job of almost being a more aggressive scorer in that second unit for us.”

The surgery diagnosis was tough to take because Williams thought he was on the road to recovery. He started working out during the all-star break, described the pain level as two out of 10 and felt he could be playing again by the end of the month.

But the medical staff sent him for an MRI exam to check how the foot was healing and it showed a stress fracture. Williams said surgery is scheduled for March 6 in New York.

“It’s a lot at one time to go from thinking that you're ramping up to play on Tuesday to a couple of days later having to have surgery,” Williams said. “Not easy at all.”

The best way to deal with the disappointment, Williams believes, is to be around teammates and attack the rehab process. If all goes well, he could be back to full speed by June or July and have time left to prepare for next season.

“We feel for him,” Caruso said. “He’s one of the nicest guys I’ve ever been around as a teammate. He wants everybody else to be OK.”

Williams thinks the fact that he played well in December gives him a blueprint for future success. The Bulls would like to see his rebounds increase, but Williams shot 50% from 3-point range in December and he has a reliable go-to move with his floaters in the lane.

“There's really no good or bad in my mind,” Williams said. “There’s really just what happens to you and how you choose to react to it. Looking forward to having the surgery, recovering and get back on the court.”

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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