Coby White is set to make the first start of his NBA career on Tuesday against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Jim Boylen told reporters on Monday that he's earned it.
You're walking along the street or you're at a party
Or else you're alone and then you suddenly dig
You're looking in someone's eyes
You suddenly realize
That this could be the start of something big
—-Steve Allen, lyrics
The start of something big? Perhaps Tuesday in the United Center when the Bulls host the Cleveland Cavaliers?
Probably not so much for the TV networks or the basketball cognoscenti since the Bulls are the "winning" team at 21-43. The Cavaliers in their post-LeBron depression are 19-45. Those Cavaliers have an appealing backcourt with rookie Darius Garland and second year guard Collin Sexton, the latter one of the league's top scorers since the All-Star break, averaging 25.4 points and shooting 43 percent on threes.
The Bulls also have one of the highest scorers in rookie Coby White, arguably the league's No. 1 rookie since the All-Star break and finally getting his first start of his NBA career. Zach LaVine remains sidelined for perhaps one more game with a quad strain. But when LaVine returns, is that to be 50 points from the Bulls backcourt?
Finally, the start of something big?
"Yeah, I'm starting," White told reporters following Monday's practice in the Advocate Center. "I played with the first unit a lot even when I was off the bench. So I just approach it like all the other games I've been approaching. I'm just coming in, playing hard and doing my job. I've been playing pretty well. So just gotta continue to do that and continue to play hard.
"It means a lot, I'm excited," White admitted. "But like I said, just gonna approach it the same way. I honestly didn't think I would be starting. Like I said, coach never put the idea out there. We never really talked about it, so I was comfortable without starting. I'm excited to start, but I was also comfortable not starting. I'm excited to start at home. It'll be a good time for me."
And especially for the United Center audience, which has been pining for weeks for White to exit the bench pines and receive a starting unit introduction. Less than a season into his professional career, the serene scorer from North Carolina has quickly become a fan favorite with his shooting and bold scoring.
White is averaging 13.1 points for the season coming off the bench as the team has alternatively played him as a shooter and point guard and attempted to massage his development as he turns 20 years old. But with the playoff objective slipping away eight games out of eighth place, the Bulls appear to be eying next season.
Coby White is averaging 25.2 points per game since the All-Star break.
Tomas Satoransky will play with the second unit. Coach Jim Boylen said he hasn't made a decision on returning Otto Porter Jr. to the starting lineup. Denzel Valentine and Shaquille Harrison will remain starters Tuesday. Porter should start soon after missing most of the season with a foot fracture. Recently, both Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. returned from injury. Once LaVine returns from his leg strain, the presumptive starting lineup for next season should be in place.
And with the most dynamic offensive backcourt since Derrick Rose and Ben Gordon.
White has been one of the NBA's most exciting players since All-Star weekend when he was snubbed for the Rising Stars game. Since then, White has been the most productive rookie in the NBA, tied in scoring with Zion Williamson while leading in threes made and shooting more than 40 percent on threes. White had a run of three games scoring at least 30 points. He has scored at least 20 points in seven of the last eight games, averaging 26.9 in that period.
White was the No. 7 selection in last year's NBA draft. He was generally regarded as the third point guard, though he's been outscoring all the guards the last month even coming off the bench. Cavs point guard Garland was selected No. 5. He is uncertain with a groin injury. Ja Morant was the consensus choice as top point guard and still the favorite for Rookie of the Year. But White is coming fast.
Coby White has made 33 three-pointers since the All-Star break, the most for a rookie.
"I think he's earned it," Boylen said of starting White. "Tomas was great (about coming off the bench). Tomas is a professional. Tomas just wants to help the team win. He'll do that in any role we give him. That's why we wanted him. He's a team guy.
"The biggest thing is this is the next stage in (White's) development," said Boylen. "He's grown into this opportunity. We'll take it a game at a time. This is something that has been building. It's something that I've talked about.
"The biggest responsibility is to keep doing the things he's doing," said Boylen. "You don't become the starter and reinvent the way you play. You play the way you've been playing. He's played starter's minutes. He's played against starters in the minutes he plays. So this is not a thing where we had this expectation for him to change who he is or what he's doing. Continue to grow with your competitiveness at the defensive end of the floor, honoring your assignments, grow with your decisions within our offense and continue to be aggressive like who you are. He started off as a guy that was off the ball. We gravitated him more to the ball. And now he's going to be on the ball more with that first group. I think the progression has been good.''