Led by Zach LaVine, Coby White and a strong defensive showing from Kris Dunn, the Bulls defeat the Hawks 111-93.
Baby mamba? The Bulls finally have their Coby. And he's being unleashed on the NBA like some sort of viper.
Bulls rookie Coby White with 29 points and six of eight threes Thursday led the Bulls to a 111-93 victory over the Atlanta Hawks. The Bulls closed the preseason with consecutive wins to finish 2-3. And perhaps opened an NBA discussion of Sixth Man and Rookie of the Year.
The Bulls draft pick selected No. 7 overall from North Carolina has been a revelation this month mostly playing a shooting guard role off the bench in the team's new rotation. Joining point guards Kris Dunn and Ryan Arcidiacono in a defensive group with Thaddeus Young, White made a trio of three pointers in a two and a half minute stretch in the fourth quarter to help double a 15-point lead after three quarters.
Coby White scores 29 points against the Atlanta Hawks
The Bulls controlled the game primarily behind that group with White posting a team best plus-33 ranking, rare for a rookie. Zach LaVine added 23 points on eight of 11 shooting in a preseason that suggested he could lead the league in scoring with enough attempts. His ease of scoring has been almost mystifying as he shot 59 percent overall and 56 percent on threes. But LaVine averaged almost 24 per game last season.
The 19-year-old White playing point guard in Summer League was the team's poorest shooter, missing 27 of 30 threes against lesser competition. But with the transition to NBA camp with his older brother Will, a Division II coach, working with him on skills after the Bulls lengthy practices, the precocious White has emerged perhaps only behind LaVine as the team's most able scorer. White even led the Bulls in field goal and three-point attempts.
He finished the preseason second to LaVine at 19.2 points per game in about 26 minutes per game. He's also behind only Zion Williamson among rookies in scoring.
Watch Zach LaVine's 23 points vs. the Hawks
"I told you (media) guys, I told him, too, he's had one of the best rookie camps I've seen," LaVine reiterated. "Obviously, we know he can shoot and score the ball. He's been aggressive and playing his game and we like it. He can shoot the ball, space the floor and (scoring) like that it's going to help us so much. He's fast, he can shoot the ball, play multiple positions. You can put him anywhere and he's going to get the job done. He's fearless, not scared of anything, not scared of the moment.
"He's going to be special," said LaVine. "He knows it; we know it."
Already, White is reminding some of Ben Gordon, the 2004 Bulls first round pick who became the only NBA rookie ever to win Sixth Man while finishing second in Rookie of the Year.
"Just playing my game and preparing each and every day," said White, who is friendly but not particularly revealing. "I still have a long way to go, but today was a good day and a step in the right direction. In the preseason, I've been playing more off the ball. I haven't been playing point guard a lot. When I was coming out (of college), I said I could play on the ball and off the ball. I'm playing more off the ball. I'm used to it. Doesn't matter to me. I can play on the ball just as good as off the ball. I know I can shoot the ball."
Most really didn't believe that after the struggling summer in Las Vegas. Crap was mentioned a lot in a non gambling sense. White Thursday merely shrugged that players go through slumps, and that was all it was. But what's been most impressive about White, and not so commonplace, is a player so confident despite his rookie status. The Bulls had a guy like that from North Carolina once, and…
OK, OK, no one's really going there.
He's not Him.
But just earning a significant place in the regular playing rotation with so many veterans and a team with playoff possibilities and aspirations is impressive and not customary for a rookie.
"I'm definitely proud of it," said White. "I went out there in training camp and competed and earned my spot in the rotation. My whole life I've been earning things; it's nothing new. I go out and compete and control what I can control.
"I was getting to spots I wanted to get to, but I was just not knocking them down (in Summer League)," White added. "Now I am knocking them down at a higher rate. But like I said this is just one preseason game. We have a whole season ahead of us, so I'm just trying to stay locked in and focused and do what I can to help my team win."
Though the Hawks were playing the second of a back to back on the road and resting some players, the Bulls played impressively. And not so much about the final result that included 15 points from Otto Porter Jr., 11 from Luke Kornet with a a trio of three pointers in the fourth quarter and a fiery eight points, eight rebounds and three blocks from Wendell Carter Jr. after a slight sprained finger earlier in the day at practice.
The Bulls controlled the game after their defensive unit led by Kris Dunn, Young and White thwarted the Hawks late into the first quarter and to the second. That opened up a double digit lead the Bulls maintained throughout. That defensive group was especially impressive, though also the way the Bulls played with belligerency on defense and certainty on offense.
Centers Carter and Kornet were active trapping the pick and roll and recovering. The defenders were climbing over screens and clogging the lanes. The defense was physical for preseason as Hawks players became upset and Atlanta center Alex Len even committed a flagrant foul against Tomas Satoransky after a turnover. No four overtimes this time, mercifully.
The Bulls forced 17 turnovers for 23 points and had a 15-point edge in fast break points. With the additions of players like Porter, Satoransky and Young, it's a higher IQ Bulls team. They make the extra pass and move the ball swiftly and with more purpose. Satoransky on one possession bounced the ball through a defender's legs for a LaVine slam dunk. The defender was Charles Brown. Yes, good grief!
Satoransky dishes one out to LaVine for the slam.
"Coby had a streak as good as we've seen in this building in a while," said Bulls coach Jim Boylen. "I thought each guy had moments. I thought we did a good job of getting the ball to the open people or the hot man. Coby had his run, Zach had his run, Kornet got it going a little bit. That's what good teams do. They find the guy who has it rolling and they keep him rolling as long as they can and we pick each other up. The preseason is over and we will move on."
The Bulls open the regular season Wednesday in Charlotte and then go to Memphis Oct. 25 and home Oct. 26 for the United Center opener against Toronto.
"Anxious, ready to go; confident," said LaVine. "That's my mood for the team, my mood in general. Anxious to get this started, get this thing rolling."
And perhaps release some of that venom on the rest of the NBA.