Bulls fall to Cavs, 82-75, in Vegas

Windy City veteran Mychal Mulder led the Bulls with 18 points
by Sam Smith
Kia Bulls Summer League Coverage

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It may be something of a White knuckle ride for the Bulls with their exciting young point guard. Though perhaps someday it could be the United Center that becomes the White house.

"I'm still trying to become a better decision maker on the court," rookie Coby White was saying Sunday evening after the Bulls 82-75 Summer League loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. "I'm trying to become a better point guard. So it's all about the learning curve; continue to learn and get better and learn from everything.

"I feel like I played solid," said White, who had 15 points on seven of 16 shooting. "Could have been better, but solid. Been here and there with it. I think my off the ball defense is what I really need to work on. It's different from college, so just trying to get adjusted to it. I thought today when I did a nice move when I went to the lane it was crowded down there and I saw somebody cutting, so I tried to dump it off and instead it got deflected. Just using my instincts."

Which is likely to take White, the Bulls and fans for the basketball thrill ride of ups and downs, shivers and shudders, oohs and aahs. Like when the Thomas & Mack Center crowd on the UNLV campus gasped about White's double crossover and blow by drive into the lane. Only to try a no look pass that became a turnover, one of White's seven along with five assists and zero for four on three point shooting, making White zero for 11 in the Bulls 1-1 start.

"I was shooting it the same as I was in college," said White. "I just can't get anything to fall right now. But we've got to move on. We've got another game tomorrow."

Chandler Hutchison #15 of the Chicago Bulls drives to the basket during the game against the Los Angeles Lakers during Day 1 of the 2019 Las Vegas Summer League on July 5, 2019 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.

That's Monday when Chandler Hutchison will return after sitting out Sunday's game in what Summer League coach Nate Loenser said merely was precautionary with Hutchison's first action since January on Friday.

Shaquille Harrison and Walt Lemon Jr. were not with the team after being released with the signing of Thaddeus Young. There are salary cap complications with the Bulls acquisitions, which Sunday included Washington guard Tomas Satoransky. It's possible those players could return to the Summer League team after clearing waivers. The Bulls had no comment. Wisconsin forward Ethan Happ also was supposed to be with the team, but was hurt before arriving in Las Vegas and dropped from the roster.

Thus the Bulls basically started four guards and second round draft pick Daniel Gafford.

Windy City veteran Mychal Mulder led the Bulls with 18 points and three of six three pointers as the long distance shooting moved at least from horrible to manageable. Gafford after his stunning start with 21 points and 10 rebounds Friday when the Bulls were able to play in transition had a modest eight points and eight rebounds in the slower game.

"Our emphasis has been transition and we didn't do as good a job of running and getting opportunities in transition and we weren't as crisp," Loenser observed. "You also have to look at we had guys who played heavy minutes on Friday night and it's a lot in 48 hours and you are dealing with younger guys. It's harder to make the adjustments on the fly and that is part of the experience."

Daniel Gafford #12 of the Chicago Bulls knocks the ball away from Malik Newman #14 of the Cleveland Cavaliers during the 2019 NBA Summer League at the Thomas & Mack Center on July 7, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

After recording 28 fast break points and 14 steals in the opener with Harrison getting five, the Bulls Sunday had six steals and eight fast break points. Playing in a more controlled half court setting, Gafford wasn't able to convert on the lobs and putbacks he delivered in the Game 1 victory.

"I think it's great for the guys because not only did they experience the good things that happened Friday night, but now we have some things to clean up on film and these guys are receptive and want to get better," Loenser added.

While the Cavaliers led most of the way after a 9-0 start, the young and restless Bulls responded to each deficit often enough to create 10 lead changes. The Cavs playing without top draft pick Darius Garland led 21-19 after one quarter and 40-36 at halftime. They opened up a quick 12-point lead to start the third quarter with a jackpot of threes. But the Bulls shot back to a brief lead in the fourth quarter before the Cavs' pressure on White resulted in a few more turnovers and Cleveland witnessing the win. Both teams are 1-1.

The Bulls Monday play the New Orleans Pelicans at 6:30 p.m. Central time without Zion Williamson, who left with a knee ouchie.

So credit White as one of the few top lottery draft picks not only continuing to play in the summer tournament, but playing extensively with more than 30 minutes (of the 40) in each of the first two games.

Naz Mitrou-Long, who played at Iowa State and in the G-league, led the Cavaliers with 21 points and eight assists with three of three on long shots. Though White was easily the most exciting and entertaining player in the game, one perhaps who might give his coach pause at times. But also someone with a flair for the game that can be dazzling.

Coby White talks with BullsTV after Bulls vs. Cavs

White doesn't look like he's anywhere near ready to start for an NBA team given his casual attitude with the ball. But his speed and imagination have the kind of appeal that perhaps stimulate you to think ahead to the daring he could display in an ambitious offensive setting.

"I could have played better. I feel I could have gotten to the basket a lot more," White said. "The coaching staff told me I can get downhill on these guys. I feel like I didn't get enough paint touches today. Hopefully tomorrow we come out with a lot more energy and come out with a victory. It's (turnovers) just the fact I always play fast and always play up tempo. I just made some poor decisions."

So many of those decisions appear to be both spontaneous with a purpose, like a young magician with some new tricks.

"Our emphasis has been transition and we didn't do as good a job of running and getting opportunities in transition and we weren't as crisp"

Summer League Head Coach Nate Loenser on Sunday's loss to Cleveland

Though the Bulls got behind quickly, they immediately rallied into a tie at 14 with some remarkable sleight of ball handling by White. One a drive from the right wing he did a double crossover with a switch hand and a Dirk Nowitzki off-the-wrong leg fallback jumper for a score. That followed a quick pullup jumper as his mid range shot looked sure. Then came what would have been the play of the game with dribbles between the legs, crossovers and change of speed and direction before firing off a pass that perhaps should have been a shot.

There's always the disclaimer about this only being Summer League for anything special. Though White's quickness should transcend orientation.

He seems to shoot better off the dribble than with a catch and is stronger with his right hand, which is no surprise at 19. He scored several times out of timeouts just on quick drives, though he only got to the free throw line one time in drawing less contact. Still, he was able to finish drives several times despite the bump.

Adam Mokoka #20 of the Chicago Bulls shoots a layup ahead of Sandy Cohen III #46 of the Cleveland Cavaliers during the 2019 NBA Summer League at the Thomas & Mack Center on July 7, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Two-way player Adam Mokoka started and had three steals, though he isn't a particularly engaged offensive player. St. Johns' Justin Simon had a powerful driving baseline slam and Mulder a reverse slam dunk during one of the rare fast breaks. Without especially Harrison, it wasn't as energetic an effort and perhaps suffered from some lethargy from the track meet opener and forced day off Saturday because of the arena structural inspection following the earthquake.

Though White, one of just three lottery picks playing in Las Vegas, is doing his part to keep the vacationing audiences demanding an encore with his nightly show.

"When you're in the zone and between the lines, I really feel like all the outside noise is irrelevant," White said. "I'm just out there hooping. I'm out there playing basketball."

And putting on a show. The kid is worth watching for both the oohs and oops.

Got a question for Sam?

Submit your question to Sam at asksam@bulls.com

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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