Bulls

Could Williams return this season? Karnišovas says TBD

Bulls

Could Patrick Williams return at some point during the 2021-22 season?

The Chicago Bulls left that possibility open when they first announced that the second-year forward would undergo surgery to repair torn ligaments in his left wrist after taking a hard fall in a Oct. 28 matchup with the New York Knicks. The team then gave Williams a four-to-six-month timeline to return, establishing a window between late February (just after the All-Star break) and late April (just after the start of the postseason).

A little more than two months later, executive vice president Artūras Karnišovas continued to hang the door open in an interview with the Mully & Haugh Show on 670 The Score, saying that, while the team is handling Williams’ rehab cautiously and there is not yet a timeline for him to return, “it would be great to have him back” by season’s end.

“Patrick is coming back slowly, the schedule is to be determined,” Karnišovas said. “We’re not going to put any pressure for him to come back. We’re just going to go from week to week, we’ll see how he improves. We’ll see in terms of a date. I don’t want to put any timeline on it, but it would be great to have Patrick back by end of season.”

The NBA recently denied a request by the Bulls for a Disabled Player Exception in light of Williams’ injury, per a report from The Athletic’s Shams Charania. Such an exception would have given the team a few extra million dollars to pursue a replacement for Williams via trade, free agency or waivers; but DPEs are only granted in the event an NBA-designated physician or Fitness to Play panel determines the player in question is likely to be unable to play before June 15.

 

As such, applying was a formality. Still, it adds context to the line of questioning.

Williams, 20, entered his second NBA season as a potential swing piece in the Bulls’ quest for contention. After flashing two-way upside as a rookie, his fit as the new-look Bulls’ starting power forward in an Eastern Conference that’s contending tier features the likes of Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo was intriguing.

But an ankle sprain derailed Williams for most of training camp and the preseason, and he struggled out of the gates in the regular season, averaging 6.6 points and 2.2 rebounds in five appearances. Then, the wrist injury.

Williams, who sported a cast and now a brace on his left wrist, has been a mainstay around Bulls practices, shootarounds and games, heeding head coach Billy Donovan’s call to stay involved with the team as he recovers.

Whether he can get back on the court for that team this season? As Karnišovas said: To be determined.

RELATED: Patrick Williams talks wrist injury, road to recovery: ‘It sucks’

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