Billy Donovan opened his post-practice media session on Friday by saying an MRI revealed Patrick Williams to have a "significant wrist injury."
That was confirmed, to say the least, by a team release hours later announcing that Williams will miss the next four-to-six months after undergoing surgery to repair torn ligaments in his left wrist.
The front of that timeline would see Williams return in late February; the back end would see him return in late April. The playoffs begin April 16, with the first round running through the end of the month, meaning Williams could very well miss the rest of the regular season.
Williams suffered the injury on a hard fall during the third quarter of Thursday's 104-103 loss to the New York Knicks. Williams skied for a dunk attempt on the play, but was fouled by Knicks center Mitchell Robinson, who was assessed a Flagrant 1 for the infraction. Williams took and made both free-throw attempts, then exited to the Chicago Bulls' locker room at the next stoppage.
"I don’t know Robinson personally. It would be really, really difficult for me to say there was ever any ill intent," Donovan said. "I think if he knew that Patrick had a significant injury to his wrist, he would feel bad. He tried to come over. Sometimes flagrant fouls get called where a guy isn’t trying to get a flagrant.
"I don’t think Robinson was trying to hurt Patrick on the play at all. It was just unfortunate. He landed kind of funny. If the foul would’ve occurred and it was flagrant and Patrick landed on both feet and not his wrist, nobody would be talking about it today. So I don’t think there was any ill intent there at all."
If Williams misses the rest of the campaign, his regular season will end with averages of 6.6 points and 2.2 rebounds in 25 minutes per game. He missed three of the team's four preseason contests with an ankle sprain, then was hampered early in the regular season by a shoulder sprain. A somber tone after Williams followed up a rookie season in which he started 71 of 72 games with a strong Summer League showing.
"I feel bad for him," Donovan said. "He obviously missed a month with the ankle. I thought he had a great summer considering the fact he got drafted and came right to camp with no Summer League (last year). He ended up a really durable player for us last year. He missed one game and pretty much was guarding all the best players on the other team throughout the entire league and not really having ever played against those guys.
"I think he had a wealth of knowledge and experience that this summer needed to be productive for him. And it was. And it’s just unfortunate that he can’t see a lot of that work out at this point in time. I’m disappointed for him."
Now, the Bulls' undersized frontline shrinks even smaller. The 6-foot-4 Javonte Green started at power forward in Williams' stead during the preseason — now averaging 15.8 minutes off the bench, he appears a logical candidate for an increased role. The seldom-used Derrick Jones Jr. could be as well. Donovan also noted after practice that going small with DeMar DeRozan at power forward or trotting out four-guard lineups featuring Alex Caruso or Lonzo Ball at that position are options on the table.
Whatever the plan ends up being, needless to say it's a brutal blow for the Bulls and Williams.