Coby White broke out against the Pacers, but remains dissatisfied

Coby White broke out against the Pacers, but remains dissatisfied

Coby White notched his first 20-point game in a month-and-a-half against the Pacers, and the full array was on display. In a spurt of particular poignance, the Bulls rookie forged a personal 9-0 run that pulled the Bulls to within 74-72 with 2:13 to go in the third quarter, the tightest margin since the end of the first. The UC was raucous.

“It was fun, it was fun. Me and [Zach LaVine] got hot, we went on a little streak,” White acknowledged. LaVine and White combined for 23 of the Bulls 26 third quarter points, draining seven 3s between the two of them.

But, as Bulls opponents do, the Pacers pulled away in the fourth, eventually grabbing a double-digit victory without their three best players in Malcolm Brogdon, Domantas Sabonis and Victor Oladipo. As far as silver linings go, White’s spark-plug 23-point, 5-for-9 3-point shooting performance shimmers. But after the fact, he wasn’t ready to talk moral victories.

“If you win, then everything works out for you. If you don't, nothing matters,” White said. “It sucks, we play so hard and we always come up short. Just gotta stay positive, though.”

That resonates, but it’s worth appreciating White’s splendor, especially with his opportunities as general of the Bulls’ second unit continuing to grow. So, after the game, Jim Boylen and LaVine took time to do just that.

“Coby's a confident scorer, he's a resilient young guy. He'll miss two in a row and he'll keep playing, and I think that's very important for us,” Boylen said. “He's a baller. He balls. He plays.

“He works very hard, he was in the gym yesterday for an hour-and-a-half. I sat there and watched him. He doesn't take days off, and he's a worker." Boylen went on to commend White's markedly improved off-hand finishing (by my count, he canned two lefty layups against the Pacers).

“Coby's off the charts, I mean, I told y'all that from the beginning of the year, I said this dude is big-time,” LaVine said. “He can score in bunches, he can score in many ways, towards the hoop, 3-pointers, midrange. You know, when he gets hot it's tough to guard him, and we gotta try to find him. And it was big, we needed it tonight.”

To his point, LaVine (43) and White (23) combined for 66 points against the Pacers. The rest of the Bulls’ rotation: 39. When White scores 18 or more, the Bulls own a 6-3 record — not eye-popping by any means, but notable for a team with only 13 total wins, at present. There’s no doubt White’s contributions are needed.

LaVine reasserted the playoffs as the team's goal, as did White. And as crazy as that might sound, with the Bulls near-equal distance from the East's eighth seed and No. 1 lottery odds, it’s not yet impossible. 

But even if that doesn’t come to fruition, perhaps the frenzies White has shown the ability to throw the Bulls faithful into (especially when working in concert with LaVine) will inspire a modicum of hope for what’s further on the horizon. The general efficiency over long stretches is still lacking for White, but he's shooting shot 40% from 3 on 4.5 attempts per game since the start of December.

For the time being, though, he’ll stay focused on continuing to improve and, of course, the team.

“We're still playing for something,” White said. “We just gotta keep grinding towards that.”

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Bulls mailbag: Will Jim Boylen return? Will Zach LaVine get traded?

USA Today

Bulls mailbag: Will Jim Boylen return? Will Zach LaVine get traded?

These are strange times, but your interest in the Bulls remains insatiable. For that, we show appreciation.

Do you think Jim Boylen will return as head coach? — Jack R.

I think it depends on the person or people Michael Reinsdorf hires to run a revamped front office. As previously written, Reinsdorf remains supportive of Boylen. If the targeted lead candidate makes clear he or she wants to make a coaching change in the interview process, that wouldn’t be a dealbreaker. In other words, Reinsdorf won’t make a hire with the pre-existing condition that Boylen must be retained. However, Boylen has done pretty much exactly what ownership and management asked him to do upon his hiring. So that’s one reason why Reinsdorf and John Paxson have remained supportive of Boylen.

In explaining why the Bulls are likely to retain John Paxson after this season, you frequently cite that Michael and Jerry Reinsdorf are loyal, and that they believe in his ability to build a roster. If that’s the case, why do you believe Jerry Reinsdorf feels more loyal to Paxson and more strongly about his abilities to rebuild the Bulls than he did about Jerry Krause, who he fired in April 2003 after Krause won six NBA Championships (compared to Paxsons’s zero NBA Finals appearances as an executive)? — Dan B.

The difference is this: Paxson isn’t being retained to have final say on building the roster, but to serve in whatever advisory or consulting role the new empowered hire or hires desires. As previously written, Paxson has initiated a lot of the talk for change to expand and modernize the Bulls’ front office.

This is an astute question, though, because there are similarities between then and now. One difference is it’s only been close to three years since the full rebuild began. Krause had five years between the end of the dynasty and his departure. But in terms of the Bulls dropping in relevance and competitiveness on and off the court, there are some similarities. And that’s why there will be offseason change.

Your question reminds us all of one amazing fact: In 35 years, Reinsdorf has had two lead decision-makers for basketball operations in Krause and Paxson. That’s almost unheard of in sports.

Do you think Zach LaVine will be traded? He hasn’t really shown the ability to impact winning, and he represents the Bulls’ biggest asset. — Zach L.

Zach looking out for Zach.

I do not think LaVine will be traded. Obviously, whoever is hired to run basketball operations may feel differently. But LaVine’s flat $19.5 million deal through 2022 is affordable, and his game continues to grow. Plus, if you do that, you’re rebuilding again. Coby White has plenty of potential, but if you trade LaVine, you’re building around a 20-year-old player who still is trying to master the point guard position. I’ve said this before, but I feel too many people focus on LaVine’s weaknesses rather than his strengths.

What are the current players doing during this hiatus? — Joe P.

Pretty much what everyone else is doing — staying at home, trying to stay in shape and listening to experts for what’s next. The fact that the NBA shut down practice facilities, which can be controlled environments, says plenty.

One issue I’ve heard in talking to people around the league is the uncertainty and the difficulty that places on teams and players. With an offseason and a training camp report date, players know how to target their workouts and bodies to get ready for that time. Here, it’s just basic maintenance, and in working conditions that aren’t the same as the modern practice facilities. It’s why if the league is able to salvage any part of this season, a period of assimilation will be essential.

I wanted to get your take on the strange disappearance/death of former Bull Bison Dele/Brian Williams. Is there a definitive article or documentary out there? Seems like an epic enough story for a big-time movie, or at least a miniseries. — Elijah H.

I think Dateline NBC did something at some point, though I didn’t see it. The uber-talented Chris Ballard, formerly of Sports Illustrated, wrote this fine piece in October 2013: Lost Soul.

And the tragedy afforded me one of the more surreal experiences of my career.

For those not familiar with the story, here’s the tragic tale in extremely shorthand version: Williams, always a free spirit and adventurous soul, walked away from $30 million and the NBA in 1999. In 2002, he, his girlfriend, his older brother and a skipper sailed away from Tahiti on a catamaran. Only the older brother returned, and he eventually intentionally overdosed on insulin and died. Investigators later concluded that Williams, his girlfriend and the skipper either were murdered or forced to walk off the boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

I wrote a feature on Williams for the Chicago Tribune during the Bulls’ 1997 title run and had a number for his mother, Patricia Phillips, who lived in Santa Monica, California. When he originally disappeared, I called her and, following a long phone conversation, she agreed to an in-person interview.

If memory serves, she was talking regularly to reporters at the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Rocky Mountain News and the Chicago Tribune. I don’t know how many of those spent multiple days with her in person, as I did. But I know I was the only one to be sitting with her inside her apartment when the FBI called to tell her that Miles had overdosed on insulin and been found on a beach in Mexico. There’s no journalism school that prepares you for such a moment. You just try to be present and human.

The commitment the Chicago Tribune made to that story still makes me proud. Heralded by editor Kerry Luft, we sent foreign correspondent Evan Osnos, now with the New Yorker, to Tahiti. Todd Lighty, the unparalleled ace bulldog reporter still doing magic at the Tribune, worked law enforcement angles. And I had Phillips’ trust.

I stayed in touch with her for a while following the tragedy, including flying back out to Los Angeles for the incredibly emotional and private memorial service. I’ve thought about trying to reconnect with her multiple times over the years, especially now that I have two sons. But I’ve chosen to respect her privacy and hope she’s at peace.

Any chance Kirk Hinrich is a name we could hear for a front office position? Or beyond that a coach? — Matt A., Australia

I always list Australia when a questioner does because I’m always amazed at how many Bulls fans live Down Under. G’day, mate.

Hinrich has kept an extremely low profile since leaving the NBA in 2016. He never even officially announced his retirement. He has stayed busy raising his family and working at the Sanford POWER Basketball Academy in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He also did some predraft work with Bucks guard Donte DiVincenzo.

Never say never in this business, but I personally would be surprised if Hinrich jumped back into the fray at this time. There was talk of him being a Bulls ambassador this season, but he hasn’t attended a game. His father coached high school basketball, and I think Kirk would be a good coach if he ever chose that route.

Ever since Dwyane Wade worked out a buyout from the Bulls, I always wondered how much the final amount was. If that number got out, I must have missed it. Last I heard, it was a stalemate before that season. But I just always wondered who “won” and what the buyout was. — Kyle D.

Really, did anybody win? It actually wasn’t a stalemate at all. Both sides worked amicably to finalize the buyout. Coincidentally, Leon Rose, now the Knicks president, worked with the Bulls on behalf of Wade and his agency. Wade received $15.5 million of his $23.7 million due that season, which he finished with the Heat after a stint with the Cavaliers.

Thanks for all the questions. Talk to you soon.

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Bulls Outsiders Podcast: The 'Last Dance' doc is coming!


Bulls Outsiders Podcast: The 'Last Dance' doc is coming!

Matt Peck, John Sabine and Big Dave Watson discuss their excitement about the "Last Dance" documentary that was moved up to April 19. They also get into Zach Lavine competing in a NBA 2K players-only tournament and debate the greatest dunks in Bulls history.

(1:36) - We ALL needed this documentary to be moved up

(8:58) - Why did ESPN hold the documentary for so long?

(17:56) - What are you looking forward to most in the documentary?

(20:00) - All-time Bulls dunks tournament

(31:25) - Zach Lavine represents the Bulls in the NBA 2K players-only tournament

Listen here or below.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.