PHILADELPHIA — About an hour before the Bulls’ 118-111 loss Sunday to the 76ers, Coby White found himself in a familiar place: Sitting in the coaches’ room with Jim Boylen, watching film and trying to learn Point Guard 101 on the fly.
It hasn’t been easy for the rookie from North Carolina. He has seen more failures than successes.
With Kris Dunn likely sidelined for a significant amount of time — and maybe the season — with a sprained right medial collateral ligament, the Bulls are trying to find a consistent point guard to build the offense around. After all, Tomas Satoransky is more of a part-time point guard and full-time combo guard, and Zach LaVine is leaned on to handle late-game point guard duties exclusively.
In fact, the Bulls haven’t had a consistent point guard since Derrick Rose was healthy. That’s why the education of White is so important to Boylen.
“He had [a career-best] nine assists the other night,’’ Boylen said of White’s game against the Pelicans. “He’s trying to own his position, command what he’s doing. I think he’s improved. His voice has been better, he’s practiced really hard, which I think is important. I’ve heard his voice more in practice, which is something we hope he can develop. A nine-assist game is a good game for him.’’
But Boylen also is the first to acknowledge that while White was drafted seventh overall to be the point guard, it was in name only. His game and skills didn’t back up the assertion then, and they still don’t.
“We’re trying to hit him on all those levels,’’ Boylen said of the offseason work White will need to put in. “Kinesthetic by doing, tonal by hearing it and then the visual by seeing it.’’
That’s why Boylen brings White into the office one hour before every tipoff. He shows him a handful of offensive clips and seven defensive clips the video staff put together.
“Just keep working on those decisions, where he’s supposed to be and how it’s supposed to work,’’ Boylen said. “We’ll just keep working on it.’’
Hopefully, White is a quick learner.
In the loss to the 76ers, the Bulls (19-35) were vastly undermanned with all the injuries, but they were still in the fight with less than two minutes remaining. Point guard play betrayed them.
Trailing by eight, LaVine threw a pass out of bounds. The next time down the floor, he tried squeezing a pass to the cutter but found Joel Embiid’s foot instead.
A Luke Kornet three-pointer cut the deficit to five, and the Bulls wouldn’t get any closer. LaVine made another questionable decision with 31 seconds left, passing the ball to the middle, where Embiid easily stepped in front of it and took it the other way. He picked up the foul and iced the game.
White was not in the game in those final minutes, and his hope is that he continues to build trust to change that. And then he’ll have the offseason to grab the job.
“Obviously, yeah, in your head, you see things in the game, see things other guards do, what they’re capable of, and you say, ‘Oh, I need to add that.’ It’s a good way to figure out what I need to improve on,’’ White said. “At the end of the year, I will definitely sit down and talk to my agent, the Bulls’ organization, and they’ll help me with what I need to work on.’’