Patrick Williams made a bit of history Friday night, becoming the youngest player (19 years, 163 days) to score 20 points in a game in Bulls franchise history.
He also made the eyes of both head coach Billy Donovan and Zach LaVine light up with his aggressive play.
"It was good to see him be more aggressive and more physical to the rim," Donovan said after the team's 123-119 loss to the Orlando Magic. "Role-wise, the kind of game that I would like to see him do. Where he's attacking downhill, he's rebounding, he's physical, he's playing around the basket, he's taking his pull-up jumper when he's got it."
"When he plays like that I don’t think he understands his strength and his physicality," LaVine said. "At 19, it’s ridiculous. He’s a monster, he’s going to be a monster."
The increased assertiveness LaVine and Donovan referenced resulted in an impressive 20 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block and just 1 turnover in 34 minutes. He shot 7-for-11 from the floor and 6-for-6 from the foul line -- drawing four shooting fouls and finishing two and-ones in the game. He pulled down contested boards and grabbed-and-went in transition. Every move was decisive, and the tone was set from the jump: Williams led the Bulls with 9 points after the first quarter.
"He was aggressive playing downhill, and we need that from him," Donovan said.
Now more than ever, with Lauri Markkanen grappling with a shoulder sprain that will likely keep him out of Saturday's rematch in Orlando. Otto Porter Jr., Donovan said before tip, is also "shut down" for the time being as he receives treatment for a nagging back ailment.
"I think not only me but every guy has to step up," Williams said. "We do have those guys out. So I'm not sure who's gonna be available and whatnot. But part of being a pro, of what I've learned, is just being ready when your name is called. So like I said tomorrow, if they do play, if they don't play, somebody's name has to be called and we have to be ready to step up to the plate and compete again."
These are the types of outings that Williams says coaches and veterans on the team have been pushing him to pursue all season. And it builds off a 6-point fourth quarter of Wednesday near-comeback against the Knicks. Donovan said after Thursday practice that he encouraged Williams to sustain his aggressiveness from the second half of the Knicks game, and that the boxes he looks for him to check include rebounding, getting downhill and to the free throw line.
Well, for a night: Mission accomplished. In fitting fashion for the first-year, Williams credited those around him as much as himself.
"A huge credit to my teammates, to my coaches that keep -- whether it's a turnover or a bucket -- they're just instilling confidence in me," he said. "And that goes a long way."
For the 19-year-old, it's a process through which he's promised to continually improve. His teammates' belief is unwavering.
“I tell him all the time, ‘Man, just be aggressive, be who you are,'" LaVine said. "When he plays with that type of intention it really helps our team.”