Bulls guard Coby White continues to show versatility
After a five-game shooting slump from three-point range, White responded with solid back-to-back showings from long distance. But the Bulls need him to continue expanding his game.
Coby White knows all too well that there’s only so much he can control, but it hasn’t been easy to accept.
The seventh overall pick from the 2019 draft, White has been in and out of the Bulls’ starting lineup since his arrival. He has been a shooting guard, then a point guard before being pushed back off the ball. And he has been in and out of the training room all season because of offseason shoulder surgery and after testing positive for the coronavirus and being put in the health and safety protocols.
His versatility has been on display the entire way — even during his postgame news conference Sunday with the AFC Championship Game between the Bengals and Chiefs playing on a TV on a sidewall in the media room.
“What happened?’’ White said in mid-sentence, pivoting from basketball player to NFL analyst after a game-changing interception by the Bengals. “Oh . . .’’
White then quickly composed himself, laughed and said, “My bad,’’ finishing his answer as if he never broke stride.
Oh, he’s versatile all right.
“Whatever the team needs me to do,’’ White said. “My role changes all the time. I’ve just got to adapt and continue to adjust. It’s nothing new for me. I’ve been doing it for a while. Whatever the team needs, I’m down to do whatever.’’
But questions surrounding White’s status linger.
When the team is fully healthy, will White still be that consistent scorer the Bulls need off the bench? Will he even be a Bull after the trade deadline?
The second question might be a bit easier to answer.
A league source said the Bulls have remained fairly quiet with the Feb. 10 deadline approaching. That’s not a surprise, considering vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas has earned a reputation as one of the hardest executives in the league to read, but injuries also have handcuffed the Bulls’ roster flexibility.
White has been trying to answer the first question about his consistency without saying a word.
He has overcome slow starts after returning from the shoulder surgery and COVID, has played the point when asked to in small increments, has been better at attacking the rim and has gotten over shooting slumps.
During a recent five-game stretch, White shot only 4-for-29 (13.7%) from three-point range, but rather than getting gun-shy, he went 7-for-13 in his last two games.
He still takes what the defense gives him, but he has a better understanding of the defense.
“I feel like teams load up against Zach [LaVine] and DeMar [DeRozan], so if I can help by making some catch-and-shoot shots, teams maybe won’t load up as much,’’ White said.
“I’m trying to help those guys spacing-wise. It’s trusting my shot, and if I’m open, shooting it.’’
But more is being asked of him.
As long as Alex Caruso (wrist surgery) and Lonzo Ball (knee surgery) are on the shelf, coach Billy Donovan needs White to play defense and be a playmaker offensively. He’s not out there to be a three-point specialist, and he knows that.
White’s teammates appreciate his understanding of what he has to do for them.
“He’s more mature as a player,” center Nikola Vucevic said. “His understanding of the game is easier now. In that second unit, his ability to shoot and create is huge for us.’’