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Bulls hope Coby White starts figuring it out

The second-year guard was back in the starting lineup, filling in for an ill Tomas Satoransky. Though White played well in the first quarter, the Bulls need him to string solid games together.

Bulls coach Billy Donovan doesn’t want second-year guard Coby White singled out, but it’s beyond that for White at this point. After his demotion from starting point guard to a reserve role, the numbers got ugly.

In White’s first 36 games as a starter this season, he averaged 16.1 points, 4.9 rebounds and five assists while shooting 42% from the field and 36% from three-point range, with a 22.6% usage rate. In 15 games coming off the bench, when his minutes were down nearly eight per game, he dropped to averages of 9.7 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists while shooting 39% from the field and 27% from three, with a similar usage rate of 21.6%.

White started Friday night against the Grizzlies in place of Tomas Satoransky (illness), finishing with a team-high 27 points in 33 minutes, but nonetheless has looked lost at times, seemingly confused about whether he’s a scorer or facilitator off the bench.

Donovan chalked it up to a challenging adjustment process after the Bulls added five new players at the trade deadline.

“In fairness to Coby or Lauri [Mark-kanen] or Thad [Young] or any of the guys that were here before the trade happened, things changed,” Donovan said. “And when change happens, change is always difficult, change is always hard, and those guys’ attitude, their work ethic has been great. But they’re trying to find — as I am as a coach trying to help them — how we’ve got to play, creating an identity. . . . We’ve had to do some things differently to take advantage of the personnel.”

White entered Friday with three games of six points or fewer over his last seven appearances. Since the season began, he has had issues with inconsistency, which seemed to worsen when he was benched in favor of Satoransky after the All-Star break.

With just 17 regular-season games left, Donovan is still holding out hope that White finds what he’s looking for. There were some encouraging signs against the Grizzlies, especially with White scoring 11 points in the first quarter and succeeding on a few pick-and-roll moments with center Nikola Vucevic. The problem is there have been hopeful moments numerous times this season, and they didn’t lead to anything.

“[He’s trying to] find that balance between himself and the other guys,” Donovan said. “Whether it’s taking care of the ball or shot selection or defense, find that balance.’’

Another man down

Losing guard Zach LaVine this week because of coronavirus protocols was bad enough. Then Satoransky started dealing with a non-coronavirus illness Thursday evening, leaving the Bulls down two starters against the Grizzlies, with another game coming against the Cavaliers on Saturday, Donovan had no guess about whether Satoransky would be back.

“We’ll have a better feel probably [Saturday], just to see where he’s at physically,” Donovan said. “But he wasn’t in a position to even suit up and play [Friday].”