What’s Lonzo Ball’s price tag going to be in restricted free agency? What about Dennis Schröder's in unrestricted free agency? Will Spencer Dinwiddie decline his player option, and is his knee right? What are the Dallas Mavericks going to do with Jalen Brunson’s non-guaranteed deal and need for an extension?
These questions already lingered over the Chicago Bulls’ 2021 offseason. But they will only intensify following Thursday’s news that Coby White underwent successful left shoulder surgery by team physician Brian Cole after seriously injuring it last weekend in basketball activities away from the team.
The Bulls said White, who averaged 15.1 points and 4.8 assists last season in his second in the NBA, will be reevaluated in four months. That will be once training camp has started and doesn’t guarantee that White, who has missed just three games in his first two seasons, will be ready by the start of next season.
The surgery was to repair his labrum and carries a recovery timeline of four months on the front end and six on the back, sources said.
The Bulls engaged in trade talks centered on Ball at the March trade deadline, so the fact they are seeking an upgrade at the lead guard position is no secret. But head coach Billy Donovan consistently cited how Nikola Vučević's arrival benefitted White, who landed in more catch-and-shoot situations and whose decision-making chores dropped once the All-Star center arrived.
Regardless of what personnel moves the Bulls make, White projected to play a significant role in 2021-22. And he still does, provided he returns healthy and rehabilitates successfully from this serious setback.
In fact, Donovan also consistently cited White’s bounceback ability and mental fortitude as the part of his makeup that he admired.
But this is a serious blow and continues the snakebit nature to recent Bulls’ injury luck. Instead of developing his game — White is a noted gym rat — he’ll be rehabbing an injury. Instead of developing rhythm with whomever the Bulls add this offseason, White will be on the sidelines when training camp begins.
Management always must balance a big-picture approach to short-term needs. In this case, however, the two dynamics align. Plenty of chatter around the league already existed that Artūras Karnišovas planned to add a lead facilitator this offseason.
What Karnišovas can’t do is allow White’s injury to overpay for his target. The Bulls also face a decision on whether to bring back Tomáš Satoranský or waive his partially guaranteed deal at a cost of $5 million.
Just Monday, the Bulls posted to their Twitter account a picture of White’s shorn locks with the caption “Fresh cut” and a fire emoji. If only that’s all White lost this offseason.