How Williams is assuming leadership role at Summer League


Patrick Williams doesn't turn 20 years old until Aug. 26.

Still, with 71 NBA starts under his belt, the Chicago Bulls' second-year forward is among the veterans on the organization's 2021 Summer League squad. And in news that should be music to the ears of Bulls fans, coaches, executives and players, he's acted like it during his first days in Las Vegas.

On the court, that mentality manifested in rebounding from an 0-for-7-shooting second half against the Pelicans on Monday to notch 30 points (18 in the second half), 7 rebounds and three clutch buckets down the stretch of Tuesday's 22-point comeback win over the Spurs.

Off the court, Bulls Summer League head coach Damian Cotter said Williams was a vocal presence in the team's preparatory walkthrough, and took it upon himself after the Pelicans game to "be a better leader and more responsible as a performer in the second half." 

Mission accomplished.

"He's trying to lead," Cotter said after the team's 92-89 win over the Spurs. "He's still a young fella, and he's just getting a little bit more mature. And the stuff you don't see that impacts the court, I was really encouraged with Pat's maturity and leadership today at the team meeting in preparation for this game."

Teammate Ayo Dosunmu even added that Williams delivered a motivational speech to the team in between contests.

"He’s a great leader. He’s very understanding. He gave a nice speech to the team," Dosunmu said, adding that the message from said speech boiled down to focusing on the next game. "Even when it’s team bonding stuff, he always gives input on the team. Me being a leader at Illinois for three years, that’s a great quality to have. You always want your teammates to know you’re not just being a tyrant. That’s when they go to bat for you the most. He did a great job with that."


Williams also did a great job continuing to assert himself offensively on Tuesday. He took 23 shots against San Antonio, surpassing his 20 against New Orleans, and got his 30 points off a variety of looks, from driving floaters to off-the-dribble mid-range jumpers to high-arcing 3-pointers (on which he shot 4-for-7).

"I think that just speaks to this team and how much they trust me. They're constantly telling me to shoot more," Williams said. "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. It's not my personality, but that's why I'm out here to kind of help mold that into my game forever."

On two of his three game-sealing buckets in the contest's final 91 seconds, Cotter called Williams' number in isolation. First, Williams drilled a 13-footer. Then, he turned a post-up catch into a twisting runner in the lane. On the third look, he moved adeptly off-the-ball to catch and slam home a feed from Devon Dotson on the run.

"Honestly, I wanted the ball in the last seconds, and I'm sure he (Dotson) did too," Williams said. "I’m sure everybody else on the court did too. We’re just competitors like that."

While Williams' 2021-22 role with the Bulls won't be so heliocentric, Cotter called the game a great one for his development because of the resiliency and offensive diversity he displayed.

"We love to win Summer League games but what trumps that is development," Cotter said. "Tonight was a good game for Pat, another step forward. He's evolving his offense.

"He gets a chance to lead. He missed out on that last year. It's a different mindset and a different responsibility... Pat's response from yesterday to today for the consistency of the game was a big step forward for him."

Cotter also added that Williams' next challenge is carrying his momentum over to Thursday's matchup with the Timberwolves. For Williams, that comes down to playing "the right way."

"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," Williams said. "I play ball to play it the right way, and I think today we did that. When we play the right way and we play simple like we did today, everything will take care of itself."

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