Coby White's NBA future goes beyond positional values

Coby White's NBA future goes beyond positional values

Among the hot topics for Bulls’ fans during this disappointing season has been the development of rookie guard Coby White. The Bulls drafted White with the 7th overall pick last June with the hope that eventually he could take over the starting point guard job and hold it for the next decade-plus.

White burst on to the scene by scoring 42 points in his first two NBA games and followed that up with back to back games of 27 and 26 points in November. He set a franchise record by making 7 three-pointers in the 4th quarter of a home-court win over the Knicks with his college coach Roy Williams watching from the stands. White quickly became a fan favorite, bringing back memories of past streak shooters like Ben Gordon, Jamal Crawford, and Nate Robinson.

Still, White hasn’t been immune to the typical growing pains experienced by a 19-year-old NBA rookie. He went through a few stretches of sub-par shooting and inconsistent playing time, averaging just 9.4 points during the month of December while shooting 37.7% from the field. And January wasn’t a whole lot better, with White averaging 10.3 points on 39% shooting.

Part of the problem was White being asked to take on more playmaking responsibilities, which took away from his natural aggressiveness as a scorer. The Bulls’ coaching staff finally told Coby to go back to what made him so successful as a high scoring guard in high school and college: attack the basket in transition and use his quickness in pick and roll situations to create shots for himself and his teammates.

With Kris Dunn likely out for the rest of the season because of a knee injury, White began to play more minutes with Zach LaVine, and all of a sudden they’ve become a formidable 1-2 punch. White and LaVine just became the first Bulls’ duo since Bob Love and Chet Walker in 1969 to score 30-plus points apiece in consecutive games.

LaVine is no stranger to high scoring games, but the 6th year guard is genuinely excited about how good his young backcourt mate might turn out to be. “He’s coming into his own, and I’ve said this from day one, he’s special. He can score the ball like no other,” LaVine told reporters after the loss to Oklahoma City on Tuesday. “He’s continuing to get better. He’s 20 years old. I think he’s starting to find his groove right now.”

So, back to the original point. What’s the best way to develop a young scoring guard like Coby White?

We’ve seen several teams in recent years trying to build their offense around a pair of dynamic guards, like Steph Curry and Klay Thompson with Golden State, John Wall and Bradley Beal with the Wizards, the former Toronto backcourt duo of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, and James Harden teaming up with Chris Paul and now Russell Westbrook in Houston. Is that the model the Bulls will follow? Or do they need to have more of a facilitating point guard to play alongside LaVine?

Clearly, the old way of defining positions no longer applies in the world of professional basketball. Rather than force White to reign in his game to be more of a traditional point guard, the Bulls need to embrace the offensive firepower generated by two explosive backcourt scorers.

White’s recent offensive onslaught came in part because opposing defenses are focusing so much attention on slowing down LaVine. That duo should find even more operating room in the future when the starting frontcourt of Lauri Markkanen, Otto Porter Jr. and Wendell Carter Jr. is back on the court, and next season there will likely be another lottery pick to add to the core.

Whether White starts for the rest of the season or not isn’t the issue. He’s playing starter’s minutes now and is on the court with LaVine in closing lineups.

Tomas Satoransky has only one fully guaranteed year left on his contract and has the versatility at 6-foot-7 to play all three perimeter positions. Ryan Arcidiacono will continue to be a depth option. Dunn will be a restricted free agent this summer and might not return. The Bulls need to continue to develop White’s passing and decision-making skills while understanding what really makes him special is the ability to score points in bunches. There’s no reason why White and LaVine can’t be effective playing together, especially since White is an active and willing defender with good size at 6-foot-5.

Very little has gone right for the Bulls this season, but if Coby White can continue to build off his recent flurry of 30+ scoring games, the backcourt will be a real problem for opposing teams in years to come.

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How to watch ESPN's 'The Last Dance' documentary on Michael Jordan, 1998 Bulls


How to watch ESPN's 'The Last Dance' documentary on Michael Jordan, 1998 Bulls

Tuesday morning, ESPN announced it is moving up the release of "The Last Dance" to Sunday nights over a five-week period from April 19 to May 17.

"The Last Dance" is an upcoming 10-part documentary series that promises to tell the untold story of the 1998 Bulls.

The series was originally scheduled to debut in June, but with the COVID-19 pandemic bringing live sports around the world to a halt, an early release was too tantalizing to dismiss.

"As society navigates this time without live sports, viewers are still looking to the sports world to escape and enjoy a collective experience," a statement reads. "We’ve heard the calls from fans asking us to move up the release date for this series, and we’re happy to announce that we’ve been able to accelerate the production schedule to do just that."

We're forever grateful.

Here's the schedule breakdown, per ESPN:

Episodes will also be made available on the ESPN App, ESPN.com and ESPN on Demand immediately following each installment's debut.

ESPN also announced that each episode will be available on Netflix for viewers outside of the United States just after midnight Pacific Standard Time the night they premiere. That breaks down as follows:

So buckle up, Bulls and basketball fans around the world. This should be a wild, can't-miss ride.

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Danny Ainge discusses Michael Jordan's 63-point playoff outburst vs. Celtics

Danny Ainge discusses Michael Jordan's 63-point playoff outburst vs. Celtics

On April 20, 1986, Michael Jordan turned in one of the most legendary playoff performances in history, scoring an NBA-record 63 points in a double overtime loss to the Boston Celtics.

Current Celtics general manager Danny Ainge was a member of that Boston team and talked about that game on a recent episode of the Celtics Talk podcast with Brian Scalabrine.

“We knew he was a great player. He was rookie of the year the year before,” Ainge said. “Everybody knew Michael’s athleticism and talents. I think this was a coming out party... Maybe for Michael as, ‘Wow this guy is really special.'"

Jordan missed a majority of the 1986 season with a foot injury but was primed for a first round showdown with the NBA’s best team. The Celtics won 67 games that regular season and boasted a 40-1 record at home (an NBA record that was tied by the Spurs in 2015-16).

“Chicago had nothing to lose. Michael had missed 65 games during the season with a foot injury, and he was fresh,” Ainge continued. “Nobody expected them to win one game against the Boston Celtics that year.”

In Game 1 of that series, Jordan poured in 49 points in a 123-104 loss at the Boston Garden. But nobody could have seen what was coming in Game 2.

"We wanted to make Michael shoot a lot of jump shots,” Ainge said. “He wasn’t known as a great jump shooter, he was a good jump shooter. He lived getting to the free throw line and getting to the rim.”

The Celtics' gameplan played right into Jordan’s hands. He shot 22-for-41 from the field without attempting a 3-pointer in the game and made 19 of his 21 free throw attempts.

“He was pretty impressive, no doubt about it. I mean, 63 in a double overtime game. It was a 58 minute game. But he still had 54 in regulation,” Ainge said. “We were all very, very impressed with Michael... We had big aspirations that year. And that was a good little wake up call.”

If people didn’t know who Michael Jordan was before, they sure did after that game. Celtics Hall of Famer Larry Bird was quoted after the game saying: "He is the most exciting, awesome player in the game today. I think it's just God disguised as Michael Jordan."

Jordan’s 63-point outing still stands as the highest-scoring individual performance in NBA playoff history. Even 34 years later, people are still talking about it.

“Michael was very, very special,” Ainge said.  “We all knew it. We all knew it after that game. And 34 years later, he’s still being considered the best player of all time.”

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