There are still some obstacles Patrick Williams has to pass the next few weeks if he wants to be in the starting lineup when the Bulls tip-off the regular season in Detroit.
Coach Billy Donovan sounded fairly confident on Tuesday that the second-year forward will answer that bell.
That didn’t seem to be the case when fall camp started and Williams was nursing a severely sprained left ankle, but if he shows that he can make lateral cuts in the next week and has no setbacks, the Bulls will indeed have their projected starting five ready to roll out for the start of the year.
“I think we’re pretty optimistic,’’ Donovan said. “What they really want to make sure is that the sprain has healed adequately, so we’ll probably be a little bit more on the cautious side just because I think once he starts randomly cutting they’ve got to see how he responds, and I think with as explosive and as powerful as he has been, one of the things they don’t want to do is have something where he’s not quite stable, he does something and tweaks it, and now he’s having to manage that in the middle of the year.
“There’s been nothing said to about, ‘Hey listen, this guy is going to miss the first week of the season, regular season.’ There’s been nothing like that.’’
Great news, especially as far as Williams goes.
The former first-round pick from the 2020 NBA Draft had an excellent offseason, especially as far as working on his aggressiveness on the offensive end, and more importantly, getting his conditioning to the next level.
It’s that condition aspect that Donovan sees as the key for Williams to take that jump to elite two-way player.
“The biggest thing for me is I think it was really, really eye-opening for him,’’ Donovan said of Williams’ rookie year. “You think about a guy 19 years old, plays one season in college, came off the bench, probably never really played in a 40-minute game where he played the whole college game, so his minutes were whatever they were. Now all of a sudden he goes from that and he’s guarding some of the guys we know he’s had to guard. There’s an endurance component for that where even though I think he worked really hard, I think he has a much better awareness of the kind of conditioning he does need to be in.’’
Lauri Markkanen wasn’t the only former Bull making a return on Tuesday, as free agent Denzel Valentine was also wearing a Cavs jersey.
The versatile wing signed a two-year, $4 million deal this offseason, and called the change a scenery part of the journey.
“Everybody’s journey is different,’’ Valentine said. “If it was perfect or easy, everybody would be doing it. I’ve gone through trials and tribulations. I’ve shown glimpses. I know what I’m capable of doing. I’ve done it here [with the Bulls]. I’m finally healthy now. This is going to be my second season coming in healthy, so I feel like my best basketball is ahead of me.
“I have no grudges, no nothing here. I don’t feel any type of way. Things just didn’t work out. But still I had great moments and great opportunities here and I had great teammates. I was blessed to play here.’’
With Williams sidelined, and also Derrick Jones Jr. (ankle) a late scratch, Donovan opted to start Javonte Green against the Cavaliers.
Jones’ ankle was expected to be short-term, while Donovan also announced that Tony Bradley was scratched, dealing with back soreness.