DENVER – Torrey Craig keeps it real.
Yes, he can get down and dirty on the defensive end, and he’s a solid three-point shooter, but what the veteran forward has brought to this Bulls roster since signing last summer is some much-needed realness.
So while the Patrick Williams benching is being handled with kid gloves by many in and around the organization, Craig was very matter-of-fact about the entire ordeal before Saturday’s 123-101 loss to Denver.
Asked about the veterans making sure that Williams doesn’t start to overthink the entire switch Billy Donovan made on Friday, Craig said, “I think sometimes Pat was already doing that. (Playing him off the bench) is the way to help free him a little bit so he won’t have to think as much.’’
And Craig wasn’t really into using Williams’ age as an excuse, either.
“I don’t think he looks at it like that,’’ Craig said. “He’s a mature guy. This is his fourth year in the league, he’s a professional, so he understands everything that comes with it. I don’t think it should affect him one bit.’’
It shouldn’t, but by all accounts, it has.
Williams found out he was being replaced in the starting lineup by Craig on Friday, before the loss to Brooklyn.
Not the first time he’s lost his starting gig. Just go back to last season, and he was also moved to the second unit for a time. The difference was what’s at stake this season.
The Bulls front office did not extend Williams off his rookie contract at the deadline last month, making him a restricted free agent this summer. They can match any offer made next July, but Williams is now stuck with the market setting his value.
Value that continues diminishing.
And while it’s not a great scenario for Williams to be in, the Bulls are also playing a dangerous game of chicken. If they do feel Williams – who they invested a No. 4 overall pick in the 2020 draft to acquire – isn’t worth the asking price, there’s always the fear that he goes elsewhere and flourishes like a Lauri Markkanen.
They’re different players and Markkanen was actually traded, but this front office can’t afford another missed opportunity that was once in their own building.
Not likely to happen, according to Donovan.
“I do know that the goal is to have Patrick here for the long term,’’ Donovan said. “That I would say has been pretty consistent all the way through.
“Do I think Patrick needs a change of scenery? I didn’t think Lauri needed a change of scenery, that was my opinion. I’m not surprised what he evolved into. He kind of went to a couple different places. Sometimes when you go through that you look internally too where, ‘Geez, I’m in Chicago, I’m in Cleveland, now I’m in Utah, like I’ve got to figure some stuff out here.’ And I think Patrick is pretty driven on figuring things out.
“I’ve got nothing at all from him where he’s like, ‘Hey, I need a change of scenery.’ There’s been none of that. He’s really good in determining what he needs to do, instead of point around and saying, ‘I need this, I need that.’ When guys get like that it never goes well.’’
Speaking of not going well, there was a little matter of dealing with the Nuggets, and it was a task the Bulls looked capable of doing through the first half when they took a 53-51 lead into the locker room.
Then came the realization that the defending World Champions have a Joker in Nikola Jokic, and the Bulls don’t.
Jokic scored 13 points, grabbed nine boards and handed out three assists in the first 10 minutes of the second half, sparking a 34-16 Denver run that the Bulls (2-5) couldn’t overcome.
As for Williams, he did score seven points in his new bench role, grabbing three rebounds, but continued to struggle from three, going 0-for-5.
“It was an uphill climb from there,’’ Donovan said of Jokic taking over to start the second half. “Defensively, we just didn’t do enough and we didn’t score enough. It was a double-digit game from there and we were just fighting to dig out of it.’’