Ayo Dosunmu and Coby White have developed a solid friendship both on and off the court for the Bulls.
So the idea that the two 21-year-olds are looking side-eyed at each other while competing for minutes just hasn’t been the case.
It helps that coach Billy Donovan continued carving out very different roles for each player.
As further displayed in the blowout victory against the Pistons on Tuesday, Dosunmu is the energy guy off the bench. The job description is simple: Come in and make things happen on both ends of the floor.
The rookie did just that, subbing in for Derrick Jones Jr. with the Bulls sleepwalking through the first three minutes of the game and quickly turning a six-point deficit into a one-point lead. Jones suffered an injury to his right leg in the first minute Wednesday and was helped off the court.
“I just knew the way the game was going [to] get in there and bring energy,’’ Dosunmu said. “Give a lift to get us going. Coach Donovan called upon us to play hard and defend, and that’s what I tried to do.’’
And he did successfully.
“Ayo’s always been a really good motor guy,’’ Donovan said. “Ayo always comes in with a mentality to defend and be disruptive, be aggressive.’’
Then there’s White, whose role is much simpler: Come in and score. Not something he needs to be told twice.
Entering Wednesday’s game against the visiting Nets, White was averaging 18 points in his last six games, shooting a ridiculous 61% from the field and 58% (18-for-31) from three-point range. It’s a much different look for a player who was simply searching for a rhythm and a role back in November, coming off offseason shoulder surgery that cost him months of development.
That’s why Donovan has continued to compliment White, praising his improvements on the defensive end, his understanding of attacking the rim more and calling him a “winning player.’’
“I think that’s everybody’s goal that’s playing a sport — be a winning player,’’ White said. “That’s all I want to be. I don’t want to be known as a loser. So to get his respect means a lot.’’
So does playing time, which both combo guards have been getting. White has averaged 31 minutes this month, while Dosunmu was averaging 24.4 minutes.
It will be interesting when Alex Caruso gets back, and even bigger picture, what happens at the trade deadline? White and the rest of the 2019 draft class are up for contract extensions this summer, so the Bulls, already facing an unfriendly salary-cap situation, have to decide if White is an important piece in an already crowded backcourt or if he should be packaged for some much-needed help at power forward.
First, it would have to be the right piece for the Bulls to even make that move by the Feb. 10 deadline, and second, there are concerns that a move like that could mess with the team’s great chemistry.
“I’m hoping [White’s] gaining some confidence in terms of his value for what he can do for our team,’’ Donovan said. “It’s an important role for us.’’
Speaking of Caruso
Caruso remains in the health and safety protocols, and Donovan already has ruled him out Friday against the Warriors.
Donovan said that once he tests out of protocol, the medical staff wants time to get his conditioning in a better place.