NBA commissioner Adam Silver did his best Thursday to plunge into the great unknown that has gripped the league, the sports landscape and the world.
Discussing the eventual resolution of the coronavirus crisis has become a series of what-ifs and leaps of faith, and a whole lot of hope. The hope from Silver and NBA owners is that the league will continue play after a self-imposed 30-day hiatus. How that will look — or if it’s even plausible — is still just speculation.
What impact, good or bad, will the time off have on players? What does it do to the rhythm of a team or an individual? How much practice will be allowed between now and the eventual restart?
That’s the quandary each NBA team is facing, including the Bulls.
Before COVID-19 became a household term, little was going well for the Bulls. But there was Coby White. The No. 7 overall pick from last June’s draft had gone from a rookie finding his way to an impact player off the bench to learning how to be a point guard. He was finally named a starter last week.
If there’s a poster boy for a season suddenly cut short, it’s White. In his last 10 games, he was averaging 33.8 minutes with 24.7 points, 4.3 assists and 3.8 rebounds while shooting 46.8 percent from the field and 40.7 percent from three-point range.
In his one game as a starter, the North Carolina product scored 20 points with five rebounds and five assists but also committed nine turnovers — a reminder that his decision-making is still a work in progress.
But mostly, White has shown adaptability.
Back in the Summer League, he seemed overwhelmed by the distance of the NBA three-pointer, but he figured it out. He admittedly hit the rookie wall in December and January, looking worn down far too often, but he figured it out.
The Bulls were hoping that with more practice time and 17 regular-season games left, White would counter his inconsistency with better decision-making and figure it out.
More specifically, with guard Zach LaVine about to return from a quadriceps injury, the Bulls expected White and LaVine to be an early glimpse at their future backcourt.
That’s how LaVine was looking at it when asked about White joining the starting unit.
“It’s going to be real exciting,” LaVine said last weekend. “He’s obviously proven and played his way into it. I’ve [said] from the get-go that I thought Coby was going to be a special player. . . . We’ve got a good little bit of a chemistry going, having played with each other. But obviously, starting a game, you’ve got to come out ready to go. It’s a little different. Just like with anyone else, you’ve got to figure out that chemistry and how to manage it.”
Figuring out that chemistry sooner rather than later would have been nice for a team that always seems to have more questions than answers about its roster.
Now, the Bulls have to play the waiting game with White. Could they get a more detailed fingerprint of his skills 30 days from now? Maybe. But there’s also a chance they have to wait until next September.
The great unknown.