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Apr 15, 2024  |  
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https://chicago.suntimes.com/authors/joe-cowley


NextImg:Bulls veteran DeMar DeRozan remains a true believer in Patrick Williams

The video made the usual offseason rounds.

Like a scene out of ‘’Rocky III,’’ Bulls veteran DeMar DeRozan brought forward Patrick Williams and second-year swingman Dalen Terry out to Los Angeles last month to try and instill the “eye of the tiger.’’

That meant 4 a.m. wake-up calls and 5 a.m. workouts with DeRozan and his trainer Jason Estrada — the first of three sessions each day.

“You get to learn from one of the best players in the NBA, that’s a no-brainer for me,’’ Williams said of the training, which was captured by the team’s in-house video crew.

Saying and doing all the right things for Williams in the summer has never been an issue. There’s been a disconnect, though, in the regular season.

By all accounts, the No. 4 overall pick from the 2020 draft is as prepared for the upcoming season as he ever has been. According to insiders, Williams not only has improved his game, but also his body and mindset.

All good news for a player the Bulls could extend to a max deal off his rookie contract.

But should they?

First, it’s important to reiterate that offseason NBA workout videos should all be met with an eye roll. They are staged propaganda that are as played out as purchasing a used waterbed on a payment plan.

Secondly, the Williams hype is a tough beverage to swallow these days.

There has been too many disappointments and too many disappearing moments. And unfortunately, Williams’ lethargic attitude of chasing down — and catching — stardom is a big reason why the Bulls are stuck in mediocrity.

When he was selected out of Florida State in 2020, the hope was that he was a Kawhi Leonard knockoff in the making. A two-way wing defender who would allow Zach LaVine to correctly move from Batman to Robin in the makeup of the roster.

Williams now will be entering Year 4 with the Bulls, averaging a career 9.7 points and 4.3 rebounds while losing his starting job last season.

Meanwhile, 2020 classmates such as Anthony Edwards, LaMelo Ball, Tyrese Haliburton and Tyrese Maxey have emerged as foundational building pieces, embracing the idea of being the face of a franchise.

Even with all the underwhelming moments, however, there is reason to be optimistic about Williams making a serious jump in 2023-24, and DeRozan is a big reason why.

“You just can’t water it one day and the next expect it to grow,’’ DeRozan told the Sun-Times in March in a heart-to-heart discussion about Williams. “You have to keep putting sunshine on it, tending to it, caring about it. Other plants grow faster than others, but you gotta stick with it. That’s all it is with him.’’

DeRozan — more than anyone else in the organization — seems committed to “sticking with it.’’

It’s easy for a veteran to say he wants to nurture the young Bulls talent, but DeRozan puts power behind those words. What’s even more impressive about it is that he will be a free agent after the upcoming season, so he might not even bask in the benefit of Williams taking that leap to All-Star potential.

DeRozan teaches because he was taught.

“[Williams] has so many traits, and it may take one at a time for it to come together, but when it comes together, I tell him all the time, he won’t lose it,’’ DeRozan said. “I hate comparing guys to other guys, I seldom do it, but he reminds me of Kawhi. I know that’s been thrown out there, but his build, the way he moves, everything. Kawhi’s one of the greatest players to play this game, and that’s high praise right there. That’s what I see Pat becoming.’’

Seeing will be believing, and the clock is ticking. But DeRozan is a hard guy to doubt.