Patrick Williams isn't going to be asked during the regular season to score 30 points with 23 shots as he did Tuesday in the Bulls' wild 92-89 Summer League comeback victory over the San Antonio Spurs.
But perhaps he can if needed. Which was the big story of the Bulls comeback from a 22-point, 41-19 first half deficit, Williams scoring six points in the last 91 seconds to assure the comeback while calling for the ball.
The results don't matter in Summer League. The resolve does.
Williams with a plethora of scoring talent on the new look Bulls, including the recently signed point guard Lonzo Ball, isn't going to be ‘the man' as he is for the Summer League Bulls. But he's quickly becoming a man who can supply more scoring to his defense and unselfish play.
"The player that I want to be is the player that does this night in and night out," Williams said post game in Las Vegas. "Trying to be as aggressive as I can.
"During the game, the game has a life of its own," Williams noted. "You never know when it will be your turn to step up and make plays and the ball will be in your hands. Last year, Zach sat out with Covid and guys had to step up. I sure hope it doesn't happen this year. But if somebody's out, guys have to step up. Just getting reps and being aggressive and getting to my spots. I think it's helpful for me now for this upcoming season and also in my future."
Highlights from Patrick Williams' 30-point outing against San Antonio.
Also for the Bulls as the precocious still 19-year-old Williams, likely slated as the starting power forward for the 2021-22 Bulls, is showing that artistic scoring game that many were begging for him to draw up last season.
"This is not gonna be his role when the season starts," agreed Summer League coach and Bulls assistant Damian Cotter. "But for his development and when the game was in the crunch we're calling his number in the post, I thought he did a tremendous job. And the last 24 hours for him, he really took it upon himself to be a better leader and more responsibility as a performer in the second half."
That came with a loss Monday in the Bulls Summer League opener and a poor second-half from what appeared to be a fatigued Williams. Williams came flying into that game, dominating and showing off, almost, from the start by repeatedly taking rebounds on the defensive board and starting his own fast break. Combined with it being the first games in months, he appeared enervated in the second-half. Which was worrisome for a kid turning 20 later this month who was supposed to be practicing daily all summer.
Williams Tuesday curtailed the breakneck pace, though the Bulls had a 22-9 edge in fast breaks.
Marko Simonovic finishes a transition dunk against the Spurs.
Marko Simonovic was cleverly efficient again with 13 points and five rebounds in 18 minutes. Devon Dotson led with five assists, though he shot one of seven for two points. And fellow Chicagoan and rookie Ayo Dosunmu bounced back from an erratic debut for 10 points and a team-high four steals. The three-point shooting was much improved with Oregon State's Ethan Thompson adding two more and St. Bonaventure guard Jaylen Adams making both his three-point attempts. Williams made four of seven on threes.
And this Summer League is pretty much all about him.
Sure, the Bulls want to see what Dosunmu can contribute and whether his place is with the Bulls or Windy City. Similarly with Dotson and some of the other additions, like the sweet shooting Thompson. It's unclear whether there is a front court free agent to add from this group.
This Bulls Summer league experience is somewhat like minor league baseball, where the team basically hires 18 guys who never will make the majors so the one or two guys who have the potential have someone to play with.
For Williams, who often was a reticent and diffident offensive player last season despite what appeared to be perhaps transcendent offensive gifts, these games are an opportunity for Williams to be the focal point of the offense.
He was used Tuesday more in half court sets in the post as opposed to pushing the ball on offense and spotting up for threes. The message seemed clear as the usually offensively benevolent Williams, especially in the first half when he shot three for 11, barely even looked at teammates before shooting.
That produced some early stagnant play which left the Summer Bulls reeling with that seemingly insurmountable deficit. They cut it to 15 at halftime.
Cotter said Williams also has been more vocal off the court, meeting with teammates after the Monday loss and encouraging the less experienced players who actually are older than he is. But leadership doesn't mean much if you can't make it happen on the court. Williams did.
He opened the third quarter with a pick and roll jumper and a three around a Dosunmu dunk on a Dotson pass and with Williams bullying inside for some free throws, the Bulls were quickly within six points. And then it was a tractor pull to the end. And in the end Williams, who listed at 6-8 says he actually grew some in the offseason, proved too powerful for the sunshine Spurs with 18 second-half points on seven of 12 shooting (after a zero for seven second half Monday).
Patrick Williams and Ayo Dosunmu both had significant contributions during the Bulls' 22-point comeback against the Spurs
"For me to go out there and try to prove to anybody that I can play in the second-half, that's not why I play basketball," said Williams. "Of course, the regular season is not going to be like this where the ball is in my hands all the time. We've got great guys on the team. So just being able to pick your spots, knowing when to be aggressive, knowing when to get to the cup and playing off other guys. We have a lot of guys that I'm excited to play off of. Get a lot of easy buckets. Just being aggressive when I have the ball in my hands and knowing when to be aggressive."
With the defense seeking him out more as he began to score, Williams then moved the ball. He made some clever interior passes that didn't connect on some occasions given the level of talent he was with. But it showed his flair for, as he likes to always say, making the right play. And then late in the game when the Spurs made one last run to try to salvage a game they seemingly had, Williams scored on a post jumper, a driving baseline score and then a slam dunk on a nifty Dotson pass to effectively clinch the win.
Thirty in the newspaper business meant a story was complete. Patrick Williams wrote 30 on the Summer Spurs and closed the book on them.
"Honestly, I wanted the ball in the last seconds," Williams admitted.
Not too long ago he almost wouldn't shoot. Now he won't stop.
"I think that just speaks to this team and how much they trust me," said Williams. "They're still telling me to shoot more. I don't even know how many shots I shot today, but I feel like it's not in my personality to be super aggressive and to just do this. But that's why I'm out here to kind of help mold that into my game forever.
"(Playing in the post) was a big thing I worked on this summer," Williams added. "Just my size, my strength, my athleticism, being able to get to my spot and also having a spot. A lot of guys that I modeled my game after and I watch a lot, they get to that spot and they're able to play through that spot and make plays in that spot whether its scoring, passing, whatever."
"Just adding that to my game," said Williams. "Of course, we've got some guys on the team who get to that spot as well. I'm thinking of Vooch (Nikola Vucevic); I'm thinking of Zach (LaVine) getting to that spot. They've been telling me that could be one of my spots because they get there and they realize that I can get there as well. I've definitely been working on that this summer and the coaching staff, they definitely feel comfortable with me there and I feel comfortable there as well. I'm excited to add that to my game."
And undoubtedly the Bulls are. Because he's another starter who'll be capable of going for 30. Because we've seen it.