Bulls guard Coby White scores 20 points in win over Magic
White seems to be finding his rhythm after missing almost five months. His performance in Orlando was eye-opening on both ends of the floor.
There’s suddenly life to guard Coby White’s game — and that’s a welcome change for the Bulls, who have needed some offensive punch off the bench.
Playing again with the second unit against the Magic on Friday, White shook up what had been a lethargic first quarter by scoring 14 points in the first half on 6-for-7 shooting (he was plus-16 in the plus/minus category in that span). He finished the game with 20 points.
Coach Billy Donovan’s patience obviously is paying off.
“I think he’s a pretty tough kid mentally,” Donovan said. “He’s not the type of guy that’s looking for all types of excuses or things to blame. He’s never been that way. Every time you talk to him, it’s always what he’s got to do to be better, and him finding a rhythm, and him not thinking, and him going out there and getting comfortable with these guys. And it’s all on him to do those things.”
White had offseason surgery to repair a torn left labrum, missing all of the summer workouts and fall camp. He finally was cleared for play on the West Coast trip, making his debut against the Lakers on Nov. 15. It was a rough re-entry, with Donovan trying to balance winning games with getting White minutes so he could find a rhythm.
In the Bulls’ victory over the Knicks last week, White finally broke out with 14 points. He followed that with rough patches in losses to the Pacers and Rockets but was able to jump-start a few things against the Magic.
“He’s been the same guy like he was last year,” Donovan said. “He gets disappointed in himself, no question. Coming into this situation, he knew there were going to be some challenges because he was prepared for that.”
White’s defense was also impressive Friday: more physical, and with more energy than he has shown recently.
Call that the Alex Caruso/Lonzo Ball effect. White said last week he had plenty of time to study both teammates during his time on the shelf and picked up on how they’re able to use their bodies on defense without drawing a whistle.
“It’s about being more physical and then seeing what I can get away with,” White said. “What’s special about [Caruso] is he’s really physical, but he knows what he can get away with. He’s been in the league for a minute now, so he knows what to do, what not to do.’’
Calling his shot
Over the last few days, Donovan has repeatedly praised center Nikola Vucevic, who made an emotional return Friday to Orlando, where he played for nine seasons.
Donovan said he knew players like Vucevic were coming almost a decade ago.
“Not that I was in the NBA then, but it was ‘stretch-four, stretch-four, stretch-four,’ and I said it’s going to start going to stretch-fives,” Donovan said. “[Vucevic] is really one of those first kind of guys that comes out there and shoots the ball well. You can talk about he’s not a great rim protector, he’s OK in pick-and-roll coverage — he’s worked really hard on defense and gotten better, but he opens up a lot of things for you offensively with the way he plays.”