Today is the day my *fully vaccinated body* attends its first sporting event in well over a year. Unfortunately, it’s not in Chicago, but I wasn’t going to turn down an opportunity to see a big-time matchup between the Nets and Bucks. The best part? I don’t really care who wins! I’m just excited to see some superstars in action (and celebrate my girlfriend’s birthday in style, of course).
See ya on ABC!
• FINALLY. In last night’s 108-97 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, Patrick Williams showed up. The Bulls rookie had scored in single-digits in 12 of the previous 13 games. Meanwhile, the last time he took more than 10 shot attempts in a game came on March 31st against the Phoenix Suns. With the Bulls season in a downward spiral, and the team struggling to make do without Zach LaVine, all fans have wanted to see is Williams play a more aggressive game on the offensive end, and they haven’t been alone. Head coach Billy Donovan and Thaddeus Young both said they have been on the 19-year-old to take advantage of more opportunities on the offensive end. At the same time, both expressed a clear understanding of the process, with Donovan specifically noting the difficulty of picking and choosing your spots as a young player.
I’ve always felt like every level you go up in the game of basketball – whether you go high school to college, college to the NBA – the hardest thing to learn is when do I shoot and when do I pass and when do I go be aggressive. Patrick has always been a very unselfish, team-oriented player, and as a young guy at 19-years-old, there are times where maybe he does try to be aggressive and maybe it doesn’t work out well and then he’ll back away just because he’s a team guy. And then there are other times I just try to thrust him into and say, “listen, you got to go,” just to try to get him in that mindset.
• He’s right, and it’s something that Williams acknowledged himself after his 19-point outing. When he was asked about using his elite positional size to take over on that side of the ball, he was open about the fact that it has come with a learning curve:
“It’s definitely not natural. That’s a thing I have to work on to get it natural, to make it natural, to be that naturally aggressive player that everybody wants me to be and that everybody sees that I can be. But it’s definitely not natural to me, and that’s been a focal point of my progression over this season.”
• Williams has the green light, and I think it’s only a matter of time before he realizes what he can do with it. After all, last night’s performance showed almost every intriguing bit of his offensive upside. We saw him step into a beautiful no hesitation 3-pointer, take Kevin Huerter off the dribble and meet Clint Capela at the rim for a poster drunk, time a back-cut to the rim perfectly, absorb the contact for an and-one lay-up, and rise above defenders for a couple of smooth mid-range jumpers. Not only did he do everything with confidence, but he did it all with ease. Hopefully, we start to see him realize that over these final eight games.
Williams on this play: "“It was just a basketball play to me. I don’t really get riled up on the court. I’m more happy in plays like a drive-and-kick or I’m driving and I have two close to me and I’m able to kick it out and the guy shoots it or he plays drive-and-kick as well." https://t.co/Eq3lzy5KXx
— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) May 2, 2021
• Also, it’s not like the Bulls don’t need his scoring ability. Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic might be two of the top scorers at their position but today’s offense-heavy league always calls for more reliable scorers. The Bulls have been plagued by cold streaks and poor second halves all season long, and they have only gone up in frequency since the trade deadline. Against the Hawks, the Bulls scored just 12 points in the 3rd quarter. Patrick Williams took just two shot attempts in that frame, both of which came in the first two minutes.
• Not great.
The Bulls scored 34 points in the 2nd half, their lowest scoring second half since December 13, 2019 vs. Charlotte (33).
— Jeff Mangurten (@JeffGurt) May 2, 2021
• Soooo … are the Bulls going to secretly tank? Nikola Vucevic was a late scratch on Saturday night, and Donovan wasn’t able to offer much in terms of his status. While he didn’t rule out this being just a one-game absence, he also didn’t say anything that would necessarily make us believe this couldn’t be a multi-game thing. My gut tells me he could very well return to the floor next game – after all, I don’t think Vooch is the one to willingly sit out – but it’s something to monitor.
• Thaddeus Young finished with 20 points (10-12), 9 assists, and 7 rebounds in the Bulls’ loss, which brings me back to this conversation …
— Bleacher Nation Bulls (@BN_Bulls) April 28, 2021
• Lowkey, the Bulls really need someone with this kind of energy.
• Dougie McBuckets went OFF (and so did the rest of the Pacers, who won 152-95!)
Doug McDermott last night:
✅ 31 PTS
✅ 11-14 FG
✅ 6-8 3P
— Justin Kubatko (@jkubatko) May 2, 2021