Decisions looming as Bulls get closer to full strength
Alex Caruso and Lonzo Ball could return next week, bringing the Bulls’ backcourt back to full strength. So what will happen with the minutes handed out to Coby White, who has been playing well lately, and Ayo Dosunmu?
Bulls acting head coach Chris Fleming doesn’t know when, but he knows the team will be at full strength sooner than later. And, yes, that includes Billy Donovan returning to his head-coaching duties.
‘‘I think Coach is getting pretty close,’’ Fleming said before the Bulls’ 108-106 victory Friday against the Pacers in Indianapolis. ‘‘He feels good, and I think he’s raring to go. I think we’ll get him back in the next couple of days.’’
The same can be said for guards Lonzo Ball (health-and-safety protocols) and Alex Caruso (sprained foot). Then things will get interesting.
Coby White and Ayo Dosunmu have been solid fill-ins for the short-handed backcourt in the last week. That was especially key for White, considering all he has been through since the end of last season.
White, the No. 7 overall pick in the 2019 draft, went from losing his job as the starting point guard to offseason shoulder surgery that cost him an entire summer to working on his game to returning — finally — in mid-November, only to go into the protocols after only nine games.
So the fact that he started the last handful of games and turned in one of his best passing displays as a pro with 12 assists in the Bulls’ victory Wednesday against the Hawks says a lot about White continuing to adapt.
But here’s the pending dilemma for the Bulls: They are still in the business of developing players, but they can’t let White play through mistakes, like they have in years past. Minutes will be tough to find once Ball and Caruso return.
Then there’s the emergence of Dosunmu. The former Morgan Park and Illinois standout is a better defender than White and makes a greater impact on winning than White does.
So what then?
‘‘The depth of our roster is something that’s helped carry us through these times, and there’s certainly always decisions to make going into a game,’’ Fleming said. ‘‘But for Ayo and for Coby, there’s always going to be minutes there with what both of those guys give us. And both of them bring very important qualities to the team on the development side that help us in the present.’’
Maybe, but White needs playing time to find some consistency in his game and to showcase his talents in the event the Bulls opt to make him a trade piece in February.
‘‘I feel like I’m getting better,’’ White said of what he has shown lately. ‘‘I just feel like I’ve gotta get reps under my belt. For me, it’s just continuing to get in the gym and play with these new guys and just playing off those main players and be the best player I can for my team.
‘‘I know who I am as a player; I’m going to stick to that. I know I can bring a lot to the court more than putting the ball in the basket. I’m going to continue to be me.’’
Fleming and the rest of the coaches are counting on that.
‘‘I think everybody sees the long game, and we’ll continue to develop all of our guys, not just Coby,’’ Fleming said. ‘‘I think we’ve got to be a little patient with that. He’s moving in a good direction.’’
With 17 players and a coach having been in the COVID protocols, the Bulls opted to travel light for their back-to-back games in Indianapolis and Washington. That meant scaled-back personnel in the travel party to take no chances with further spread of the virus.