Bulls rookie guard Coby White continued to make history Tuesday.
And his achievement went beyond the scope of the Bulls’ record book.
Scoring 35 points in the loss to the Thunder after back-to-back 33-point games only 10 days after turning 20 carries some weight. But how much?
He became the first Bulls reserve with three consecutive games of 30 or more points and the first in the NBA since J.R. Smith in 2013.
White joined Hawks All-Star guard Trae Young as the only rookies since 2000-01 to score 30-plus in three straight games, and his 35 against Oklahoma City were the most points by a Bulls rookie since Ben Gordon had 35 against Charlotte in 2005.
Obviously, this scoring outburst by the No. 7 overall pick in the June draft is an exciting development but not exciting enough to change coach Jim Boylen’s stance on a starting role for White.
“I keep getting this question, and I’m just going to answer it one more time: Coby is in a good place,’’ Boylen, bordering on agitation, said after the loss. “We’re going to keep him in a good place. I understand what you’re trying to ask. But let’s let Coby keep playing and keep developing and keep him in a good spot. That’s my goal right now.’’
It’s not the most popular stance, but it’s the correct one. The problem is anything Boylen says these days — right or wrong — is harshly scrutinized by an angry fan base.
Here’s the reality check, however.
People seem to be forgetting that White was basically a no-show through many of the games in December and January. In 17 games last month, White scored in single digits in eight, and in December, he averaged only 9.4 points, shooting 37.7 percent from the field.
Those aren’t exactly historic stats.
His last three games have been eye-opening, but let’s remember the teams he was playing against. The Suns are 20th in points allowed, and the Wizards are last in points allowed and defensive efficiency. Only the Thunder have a top-10 defense, ranking 10th in points allowed and efficiency.
Then there’s the other factor that can’t be overlooked.
To call the Bulls short-handed is an insult to short-handed. They’ve been dressing nine and using G Leaguers to fill out the second unit.
The bench needs a scorer, and that’s White’s job.
Boylen’s strategy allows him to stagger minutes between White and Zach LaVine through the first three quarters, then ride them out during the final push.
Boylen is still giving White starter’s minutes, playing him 34, 34 and 33 the last three games, and, more important, White is on the floor to finish games. The North Carolina alum has said he doesn’t care if he starts as long as he finishes. Well, he’s finishing.
Finally, there’s the defense.
White has improved in that department but isn’t there yet. While LaVine has made an effort to improve on that side of the ball, he’s far from a stopper. If Boylen starts White and LaVine, it’s basically an open invitation for the opposing backcourt to start a layup line.
Boylen has become an easy target this season, but in this case — his handling of White — he shouldn’t be criticized.