Bulls

Coby White searching for rhythm after return from injury

Bulls

DENVER — Even while sidelined with the torn labrum he had surgery to repair in June, Coby White never strayed far from the Chicago Bulls’ day-to-day.

In between workouts and treatment sessions, he’d make rounds after practices and shootarounds to rebound for — and joke with — his teammates. On the bench, he was a consistent, ebullient presence during celebrations.

But, recently returned after five months of rehab, he’s happy to now be in the process of fully reintegrating into the team.

“It was cool, it was fun, it was good for me,” White said after the team’s Friday morning shootaround in Denver of making his debut Monday against the Lakers, before adding with a laugh: “It’s always a way to come back; you come back, you play at Staples Center.”

White logged just 11 minutes in that game — with about half of those coming in mop-up time — then 10 in Wednesday’s loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. In those 21 minutes he’s scoreless on 0-for-4 shooting, uncharacteristic of the combo guard known for his ability to provide instant offense.

That speaks to the adjustment period that comes with jumping back in on the fly after nearly half a year away from live action.

“I'm just trying to find the rhythm,” White said. “Coming back to a team that's already winning, you just gotta find your place and whatever that might be.

 

“Most of these guys I've never stepped on the court with a day in my life, and it's gonna take some time just to be thrown out there in games. During the season we really don't get to practice much. So for most of these guys, my practice or my time with them is in the game where everything is the most important. So for me it's trying to get the rhythm and get the feel for everybody else out on the court.”

Indeed, White, Zach LaVine and Nikola Vučević are the Bulls' only current regulars carried over from last season’s rotation. And White’s role is changing; not only are minutes unguaranteed at the moment, he’ll also be asked to come off the bench and play off the ball more than during his second season, when he started 54 games at point guard.

Head coach Billy Donovan has tempered expectations for White since the timetable for his return materialized a few weeks ago, stressing an adjustment period would be needed. Since then, White has scrimmaged regularly with player development staffers, and practiced with the Bulls’ G League affiliate, but the jump from that to live action is seismic after so much time away.

“He’s going to have to find his way there a little bit,” Donovan said before the Portland game. “He did the best he could under the circumstances, but we could not create an NBA experience and environment for him. We did the best job we could and then the G League situation was the next best thing, but a little different when you’re driving it in there against player development guys that are 6-foot-5, 6-6, and then you’re going in there on Dwight Howard. 

“That’s going to be the part for him where he’s going to try and find his rhythm a little bit, and he just hasn’t had the chance to do that or get prepared for that.’’ 

So White is being eased back into a 10-man rotation, which continues to feature rookie guard Ayo Dosunmu, who is averaging 19 minutes since White’s return.

The optimal version of White serves to boost a Bulls bench still 28th in the NBA in points per game (25.2) and 29th in 3-pointers made per game (2.2). Last season, White averaged 2.4 made 3-pointers per game on his own, shooting 35.9 percent on 6.6 attempts.

But for the time being, with the team 10-5, White is taking a level-headed approach to fitting in.

“Coming back to a team that's already winning, you just gotta find your place and whatever that might be,” he said. “Just trying to get reps on offense with those guys.

"They (his Bulls teammates) accept me. When I was injured, I was always around a pretty good amount. They accepted me coming back in. It's not always easy, to come back and try to find your way. So to accept me means a lot."

 

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