DENVER --- Zach LaVine knew Patrick Williams was in for an aggressive night in Wednesday’s stirring victory over the Denver Nuggets by the way Williams scored his first basket of the second quarter.
“He drove through some contact, bumped (the defender) again, told him to get out of the way, laid it in for an and-one,” LaVine said. “He’s that talented and that strong. He can do so much on the court. He’s just scratching the surface.”
LaVine characterizing Williams telling the defender to get out of his way was more figurative based off Williams’ physicality than literal from Williams’ verbal ways. But even there, Williams is showing more personality inside the locker room of late, trading good-natured barbs with DeMar DeRozan during postgame interviews.
Either way, Williams’ 18-point night on 8-for-9 shooting in such a big victory only underscored the promise that still remains in the third-year forward. Williams shot 6-for-6 in the restricted area, including five baskets at the rim. He also added four rebounds and a steal.
But perhaps his biggest sign of growth came when Williams answered if he took any greater significance from playing so well against such an elite team.
“I’m kind of learning your confidence can’t waver from game to game,” he said. “Being decisive and my energy and effort and confidence is something I can control every night.”
That has to be music to the ears of many within the Chicago Bulls’ organization, who have stood by Williams as he has navigated an up-and-down start to his young career.
Coach Billy Donovan’s decision to move Williams to the second unit in six of the seven games since the All-Star break---Williams started against Kevin Durant in the other---has worked. Williams has scored in double figures in four of his six reserve appearances, consistently showing a more decisive offensive mindset.
“Over the last year, everybody’s talking about him being more aggressive,” Donovan said. “I think the next thing as you’re seeing him be aggressive is him attacking the basket. There are times where he can get all the way into the paint and in front of the rim.
“Even if he can’t shoot it, he can spray it out. He did that a few times. I thought he was great (Wednesday). He got deep into the paint. He didn’t take one dribble and take that pull-up jump shot. That, to me, is an easy shot for him to take. But it would generate a lot more for our team when that dribble turns into one more and it’s at the basket.”
Williams said the Bulls’ adept ball movement and reversal placed him in many situations where a defender was closing out on him, making it easy for him to make the right read and attack the restricted area. With the game slowing down for him, either based on experience, work ethic or both, Williams now is seeing those opportunities more clearly.
“I think it just comes down to me, quite honestly. Just my mindset coming into the game, staying aggressive,” Williams said. “It’s not going to happen if I don’t make it happen.”
And if Williams doesn’t, he has veterans and coaches reminding him constantly of his potential.
“It’s hard not to be confident when you have teammates always on your ass about staying aggressive and shooting the ball,” Williams said. “If they pass one, they’re on me.”
Almost right on cue, LaVine followed with an answer underscoring that dynamic when asked what he thought overall of Williams’ performance.
“Play that way every time,” LaVine said.