With shots falling, Bulls' Williams starting to believe in star potential
Bulls forward Patrick Williams has heard people talk about his potential since before high school. Now he's starting to believe it.
"I always felt like I had what it took to be a really good player in this league," Williams said Sunday at the Advocate Center. "Now I'm starting to feel like I have what it takes to be a star and superstar in this league, so I'm just trying to take that role on and build on it day by day."
Granted, he probably won't reach that level anytime soon. He and Ayo Dosunmu are still the fourth and fifth options in a starting lineup that features three all-stars.
But Williams has made strides lately when it comes to fitting in with a veteran group and figuring out where he can help the team. During November, Williams is shooting an even 50% from 3-point range, going 20-for-40.
"Guys have been telling me this since my rookie year and before that, since college, since high school," he said of his budding stardom. "Kind of trying to take it into my own mind now. Kind of trying to show that on the court.
"It's not a matter of people are saying it or what the potential is, it's just a matter of what you produce on the court and I think I'm trying to take steps in the right direction."
Williams felt the time he spent working out with teammate DeMar DeRozan this summer in Los Angeles helped with the mental toughness needed to snap out of an early-season slump.
He shot 35.3% from 3-point range in October. But that didn't seem like a slump as much as a lack of aggression, or trying to find his role while playing with three heavy-usage players in DeRozan, Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic.
"I'm pretty proud of myself in terms of how I went about it," Williams said. "I try to be the same guy each and every day I came in here. When you get into a slump, it's easy to get into yourself and shy away from the team, think that you're letting other guys down.
The Bulls returned to Chicago Sunday after Friday's loss in Oklahoma City. They'll continue the road trip Monday at Utah, where Williams could match up with former teammate Lauri Markkanen.
One hope for the Bulls' future is Williams will emerge as a star while he's still playing in Chicago. Two years removed from his trade from the Bulls, Markkanen is having the best season of his career, averaging 21.7 points and 8.4 rebounds with the Jazz.
"I know he's been playing well," Williams said of Markkanen. "So proud of him on that end. I think it will be a good battle."
Williams and Markkanen were teammates during Williams' rookie season in 2020-21. The following summer when Markkanen's rookie contract ran out and he hit restricted free-agency, he requested a trade and landed in Cleveland. The 7-foot Finland native was sent to Utah this past summer as part of the Donovan Mitchell said.
"We're really close," Williams said of Markkanen. "My rookie year was more so just culture shock in terms of, 'OK, I'm in the NBA.' I was trying to see like, 'OK, what is this life like? What are the people like in the locker room?' things like that. "So I was talking to literally everybody and picking everybody's brain because I just wanted to learn as much as I can. It's almost like, you can't wait to be great. I sat right next to him in the AC. So pretty good relationship I would say."
Markkanen is listed as questionable for Monday's game with a right knee contusion. For the Bulls, Alex Caruso is questionable due to a right ankle sprain suffered during Friday's game. Caruso sat out Sunday's practice.
Bulls coach Billy Donovan said Caruso turned the ankle, felt he was OK, then aggravated the injury during overtime and went to the bench in favor of Dosunmu.
"The last two minutes of overtime, it looked like he planted and I could tell, he winced pretty severely," coach Billy Donovan said. "He didn't think he could move well enough."