Bulls guard Coby White pulls out victory in first NBA start

It hasn’t been the easiest few weeks for the Bulls rookie, especially as a self-proclaimed germophobe during the coronavirus outbreak. But he can at least say he won his first game as a starter.

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Coby White is an admitted germophobe.

Obviously, his life has been filled with a bit more anxiety than usual the last few weeks.

So making his NBA starting debut on Tuesday had to feel pretty stress-free.

After spending the first 64 games of his rookie season coming off the bench for the Bulls, White was named the starter on Monday, coach Jim Boylen insisting he had played his way into that spot.

In the 108-103 victory against the Cavaliers, he did more than enough to keep that spot.

White wasn’t stellar by any means. He shot only 7-for-17 from the field, and his nine turnovers were a serious eyesore, but the guard out of North Carolina was also a plus-9, led the Bulls with 20 points and, more important, helped the team end a three-game losing streak.

“I thought he competed,’’ Boylen said. “He was on [Cavs guard Collin] Sexton a lot. That guy is a hard guy to guard. He’s fast, he’s strong, so I thought Coby was a two-way player tonight.’’

Besides the fact that the Bulls (22-43)watched their slim playoff dreams come to a crashing halt with all the recent losing, White was a lone bright spot as a reserve his previous 10 games. The No. 7 overall pick was playing starter minutes, as well as averaging 24.1 points and 4.5 assists in that span.

He wasn’t just knocking on the door to start; he was kicking it in.

“I think it’s a great accomplishment for him, the way he’s done it and the lessons in this progression, this development path he’s had,’’ Boylen said. “You know, development is kind of — you improve and maybe have a little disappointment. And then you plateau. And then you improve. He has kind of had that path. He started off in October and November playing really well, kind of playing off the ball. And we made the change with [Kris] Dunn, and he became more dominant on the ball, still playing in the second unit. And then he progressed basically into playing starter’s minutes but not starting. And now he’s starting. So I’m proud of our staff.

“But I’m also proud of him. He takes great responsibility for his play. And when he plays poorly, it bothers him.’’

The outcome against the Cavs shouldn’t have bothered White, especially because of the way he and his teammates had to grind out the final minute.

Was it pretty? Not in the slightest. But the fact that Shaquille Harrison had a huge offensive rebound with 13.2 seconds left and was fouled, making both free throws, and the way the defense clamped down on the Cavs in that last minute, well, this is the type of tough-minded basketball Boylen has been pleading for his team to play.

“It wasn’t pretty, but we gutted it through,’’ White said. “It was good to get a win my first [start]. You want to do good and you want to play good, help your team win. That [mentality] takes over come game time. We just had to grind it out.’’

As for White and his concerns with germs and the coronavirus scare? Like he has on the court, he’s just figuring it out.

“I’m the type to shake your hand, then go straight to the bathroom and wash ’em,’’ White said. “Just staying on top of everything.’’

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