Coby White comfortable playing both guard positions going into Bulls 22-23 season

It’s been a relatively uneventful Bulls training camp with the first preseason game scheduled for Tuesday against New Orleans.

The four main starters, Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, Patrick Williams and Nikola Vučević, appear certain even as newcomer and two-time All-Star Andre Drummond says he considers himself a starter. But with little apparently having rubbed off on him from being with the Nets last season, Drummond neither is demanding to start or have the coach fired. He’s been smiling a lot.

Goran Dragić, Alex Caruso and Ayo Dosunmu are in competition to start for injured Lonzo Ball, but to hear them talk each seems to be rooting for another. LaVine is wealthy, healthy and happy and so is DeRozan, who seems most happy when being doubted, which was suggested to him though no one was quite sure who was saying it.

The guy who often seems the most left out in all of this is fourth-year guard Coby White, winner of the Most Often in Trade Rumors award, eligible but uncertain to receive a rookie contract extension, and paradoxically probably as irreplaceable as any player on this Bulls roster.

Drummond is there for Vučevi. Despite each’s All-Star brilliance, DeRozan or LaVine could close or be the prime scorer for one another. Any of the three point guard hopefuls would be a serviceable selection among the current contestants.

But nobody really does what Coby White does, which is shoot a high three-point percentage coming off the bench while being capable of scoring in bunches with team record three-point shooting games and quarters and who provides that rare quick twitch offensive spark.

Combined, Dosunmu, Dragić and Caruso averaged about 23 points per game last season. White averaged about 13 on his own in limited time and 15 the season before. Caruso and Dosunmu never have averaged scoring in double figures. White never hasn’t in his three NBA seasons.

White last season tied LaVine for second behind ball in three-point shooting at about 39 percent even as coach Billy Donovan admitted he put White in the most difficult position of any player on the team with starting, coming off the bench and then playing various positions. in fluctuating situations.

Typical was a nine-game stretch before the All-Star break last season when White sat two games with an abductor strain in the middle, started four times and came off the bench three. Yet, as the Bulls were hanging onto first place in the Eastern Conference, he was averaging 19.6 points and shooting 54 percent on threes in that run.

Only LaVine and DeRozan were capable of production like that. This also in a season he began late because of shoulder surgery which precluded him from working out in the summer.

Yet, it seems like everyone wants Zach or DeMar or Ayo or Vooch or Patrick or Alex or even Javonte.

Coby White prepares to enter his 4th NBA season.

“My mindset never really changes,” White was saying the other day at camp in a detached but assured sort of way. “Just go out and play basketball. I feel like I’m a basketball player. I do whatever is needed for the team, whatever the coaches ask me. I’ve always been that way. I grew up playing the two (all- time leading North Carolina prep scorer). I switched to the one. In college, I played a little bit of two and the one; it’s nothing new to me, Like I said, I’m going to be playing multiple positions this year. I did it last year, the year before that. I actually did it my rookie year, too. We had Arch (Ryan Arcidiacono) and Kris Dunn, too, and I was playing with those guys. So I’ve been doing that since I’ve been here. You add more value being able to play the one, two and three, so I’m not strictly that one position.

“I just play basketball, bro,” said the insouciant White. “I’m just looking at it like another season. Come in and help my team any way I can. We’re really focused on winning here and going to the second round of the playoffs and so on. So whatever I can help my team do, that’s all I care about. I believe everything else will take care of itself.”

It’s an enviable attitude and typical of White, who has been relentlessly upbeat, a team comedian and relentlessly positive during a turbulent Bulls tenure that found him first shoehorning into a point guard role and missing the All-Star rookie game in Chicago. And then in his own, quiet, “I’ll show you,” came out of the All-Star weekend with a historic scoring run that included the first back to back 30-plus scoring games in NBA history for a rookie off the bench .

White averaged 26 points in that nine-game stretch and then got his first start of the season in the last game before the league shut down for Covid March 11, 2020. White averaged a career high 15.1 points with 54 starts the following, shortened season and then suffered a serious shoulder injury requiring surgery after the season. He missed the first 13 games last season recovering from surgery and then played occasionally for the next month. Through all that he’s had games with seven three pointers in a quarter and eight in a game. And yet going into his fourth season, he still has not experienced an entire NBA 82-game season.

White also is the only Bull other than LaVine, who received a long contract extension this summer, who was inherited from the previous management regime.

Does he have a future with the Bulls?

But if he doesn’t then who does what he can do?

That’s one of the most important, if also least discussed, issues for the Bulls this season as management understandably prioritized the offseason with the addition of size to support Vučević and point guard insurance given Ball’s uncertainty. The Bulls were the lowest volume long distance shooting team in the league, but didn’t address that yet.

So there’s a significant role for the bullish White to fill. Will he get the opportunity?

Coby White shoots a jumper during Bulls Training Camp.

The 6-4 White who is just 22 years old did have some difficulties against the physical play in the playoffs, though he had 17 points in the closing loss. He said he spent the summer with weights, working on his dribble, his footwork on defense and, of course, shooting.

“I was just happy to get a summer and work on my game with the people I wanted around me,” White said. “They (Bulls) want me to make shots and come in and guard my position, so that’s what I’ve been focusing on. I have to do what’s best for the team. I feel like me, Pat, Ayo, the young guys, we’ve all matured and hopefully we have a big impact on the team. I know those guys will, so I hope I will, too. We didn’t like the way we ended the second half of last season, so we have to come back hungry. We were first going into the All-Star break and by the end of the season we were fighting for a berth in the playoffs. But it’s not like we’ve been together five years; this is only the second year we’ve been together.

“Obviously, you can’t replace Lonzo, especially on the defensive end,” White agreed. “I feel like me, Ayo, AC, Dragić, all of us can play. We’re all really good players, so everything will take care of itself. I always say as long as I’m getting minutes and on the floor I don’t really care.”

The question is when will he, where and with and instead of whom. It should be one of the more compelling spectator sports to watch with the Bulls this season.

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

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