Bulls fall to Pacers, 105-87

Despite the preseason loss, rookie Coby White had another impressive offensive show with 24pts
by Sam Smith

Body

The Bulls have a point guard competition? How about the shooting guard position? Coby White is taking his shot.

Often.

The Bulls rookie Friday in Indianapolis moved into the starting lineup with the Bulls resting what appears to be the starting lineup for this season. So White scored a smooth 24 points, making four of nine three pointers, in another impressive offensive show despite the Bulls 105-87 loss to the Indiana Pacers.

The Bulls now are 0-3 in the preseason. But they'll presumably take that given the sudden and perhaps surprising development of the 19-year-old rookie. White hasn't shown the least bit of hesitation and despite his inexperience has played like one of the more astute players on the floor. He was calling out switches and directing teammates to defensive assignments while creating points with ease.

"You work your whole life to make the NBA."

Coby White
Coby White (https://www.nba.com/bulls/sites/bulls/files/white_ss.jpg

"Just be a baller," Bulls coach Jim Boylen said postgame when asked about White's offense. "We aren't going to define you in this way or that way or you have to do this. Trust your instincts, compete on both ends of the floor, try to become a two-way player and just grow. He's done a good job of it. He is a young developing player. Maybe some parts of his game are ahead of others; everybody's like that. He has intelligence, he plays with confidence, he's physical, he does a lot of things well for a young guy. The number one thing he does well for a young guy is he gives a crap about the team and what we're doing."

One of the big things the Bulls have been doing this preseason is figuring out the point guard position, presumably a race to start among Kris Dunn, Tomas Satoransky and White.

Boylen said after Wednesday's loss to the Pelicans he is close to setting a rotation and lineup to start the season. Though Boylen declined to be specific yet, his decision Friday to rest Satoransky, LaVine, Otto Porter Jr. and Lauri Markkanen seemed a strong indication those four would start along with Wendell Carter Jr.

Wendell Carter Jr. takes part in Friday's practice

Carter is expected to make his preseason debut Sunday in Toronto after minor injuries in training camp. Though perhaps most unexpected has been the way White has been able to score so effortlessly. White despite coming off the bench the first two games is averaging 16.3 points in just 27 minutes. He's only shooting about 40 percent and barely averaging an assist per game. Against the Pacers in 30 minutes, White didn't have an assist or turnover.

No, he's not passing the ball much. If at all.

Which isn't really a problem since the Bulls have three other point guards in Satoransky, Dunn and Ryan Arcidiacono, the latter with 10 points against the Pacers. The only other Bull to score in double figures was likely G-league tenant Justin Simon. The Bulls shot just five of 27 on threes starting a reserves group against Indiana's first unit. The Bulls never led and trailed by as much as 21. Though they had 15 steals with Dunn contributing six (along with seven turnovers) and Daniel Gafford five. Gaffford had another sound game with nine points and eight rebounds and several lob dunk finishes.

Simon slams one in!

"I thought we played hard; our guys went out there and competed."

Coach Boylen

But fellow rookie White, the Bulls' third consecutive No. 7 overall draft pick, was the focus for the Bulls in attempting about a quarter of the team's shots.

Point guard is the most complicated position to learn in the NBA, and White isn't close. He operates at point more like a quarterback who watches his primary receiver without anticipating the various options. Which probably is no surprise.

Asked about playing off the ball earlier this week, White said, "I wasn't a point guard all my life. When I was around middle school I always played the two. I can shoot the ball well enough to play the two. So I feel comfortable."

Actually, at least for now, that's probably where White can help the Bulls more.

Denzel Valentine had a rough outing with one of nine shooting in 29 minutes. And with Chandler Hutchison still out injured, the Bulls are light at the wing positions backing up shooting guard and small forward. Thaddeus Young, who also rested, can play some small forward, but he isn't a shooting threat.

Denzel Valentine

The ability of White to play scoring and shooting positions and being a solid 6-5 seemingly puts the Bulls in a more advantageous offensive position. Plus, it takes pressure off making a decision regarding Dunn. Now Dunn can presumably concentrate on a defensive vocation, which he seems to be embracing.

"I wanted to go out and make a couple of defensive plays; that's my role right now on the team," Dunn said after the game.

The surprisingly quick development of White as an offensive option with speed and transition abilities (the Bulls had 20 fast break points despite scoring just 87) enables Boylen the flexibility to play a potentially high powered scoring lineup with LaVine, Porter, Markkanen and Satoransky. Then Carter also can mix in with defensive stoppers like Dunn and Young to alternate rotation looks. Plus, White seems comfortable squared up shooting threes, which could further open the court for LaVine and Porter.

"I thought we played hard; our guys went out there and competed," said Boylen. "I really felt good about our effort, our guys stepping up and playing. It says a lot about our culture and what we are building. Come out and compete and whoever steps on the floor with Bulls across their chest plays hard and that they care. I think they did that."

The Pacers did take a double digit lead early in the second quarter and maintained that pretty much the rest of the game, a 13-point lead at the half and 20 after three quarters. Despite playing overseas already, the Pacers were the ones using their starters. So the smooth ball movement and player movement that was evident for the Bulls against New Orleans was absent. Without Markkanen and LaVine, especially, the Bulls were lacking catch-and-shoot players. Markkanen probably is the best catch-and-shoot player on the Bulls roster, a crack that still needs some repair. So as a result, there was more isolation drives. The Bulls had just 14 assists after 38 Wednesday.

Luke Kornet shoots the ball

But White, especially, stood out. He was the Bulls leading scorer for the game and in each quarter.

It's rare—and welcome—when someone so young comes into NBA games with the confidence of a veteran, intrepid and undaunted. Not so much that White doesn't respect the game, but seemingly possessing so much trust in himself and his abilities he's unafraid of failure. It doesn't appear to be in his calculations or makeup.

"He has intelligence, he plays with confidence, he's physical, he does a lot of things well for a young guy."

Coach Boylen on Coby White

"You work your whole life to make the NBA," White was saying earlier this week. "When that dream comes to reality, it's everything you worked for. But for me, it's just one step towards my goal. I have a lot more goals set for myself. It's not making it here. I want to stay here and play for plus years. Since I've been in high school, I liked contact. In high school, it's how I played, creating contact and getting to the rim. When I started my career in high school, I wasn't really a shooter. I was a get downhill type of guy. Then I developed my shot. It's something I'm used to and been doing a long time.

"The main thing that fits me is he (Boylen) wants to run," White said. "The faster I get down the court, the faster you get into your offensive possession. I love to run. Whether I've got the ball in my hands or not, if you run and get in transition, it creates more scoring opportunities for you."

Which is the name of the game.

Got a question for Sam?

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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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