On a night the Celtics scored an astounding 35 points off 19 Bulls’ turnovers and Coby White’s minus-22 “led” a starting unit that featured everyone registering a minus-15 or worse, Billy Donovan had to know the question was coming.
Is it time to start Tomáš Satoranský?
After all, Satoranský posted six of the Bulls’ 28 assists, played the same number of minutes as White at 24 and finished plus-6 despite missing six of seven shots.
This isn’t to put all of the starters’ struggles on White, who only committed two of that unit’s 12 turnovers while Zach LaVine posted his fourth game with six or more at six. But too often, the Bulls’ bench is providing a collective spark to rally the starters.
“That group’s got a pretty good chemistry and you have to look at what the give and take of doing something like that may be. Does it disrupt that group? Is it not good for Coby?” coach Billy Donovan said. “That (starting) group has to function better. I don’t want to keep putting it on experience because I think it’s beyond that at this point.
“There has got to be a point where we sit there and say, ‘What are the things we are doing better (to) impact the group and impact our team?’ There’s just different things, like a rebound, a turnover or we aren’t physical enough.
“I would hate to take that and say, ‘OK, the reason some of those struggles have gone on is just because of Coby.’ Because there are five guys out there playing. They all got to contribute in a way to when it is going well and maybe when it is not going well.”
Translated: Don’t look for a change.
But White, and Donovan, knows the second-year guard needs to play better. White, after all, posted just one assist.
“I mean, yeah, of course I feel I can play a lot better than what I’m playing. I mean, I evaluate myself a lot. It’s going to be ups and downs,” White said. “If I start getting down on myself or too negative, that’s not good for me. You have to be real to yourself but at the same time, it’s still a learning process. I know I’m going to try my hardest. I know I’m going to keep fighting. I know I’m going to keep putting time in to get better. That’s all I can ask for.”
Much was made this past offseason of the Bulls’ need for a true point guard. Instead, the Bulls drafted promising forward Patrick Williams, signed steady veteran Garrett Temple in free agency and handed the car keys to White. Call it an experiment for White, who is in his first season as a full-time starter, and lead guard by committee.
After all, LaVine can handle it and playmake. So can Satoranský. Temple and Williams possess ball-handling and facilitating skills. So does Denzel Valentine. Ryan Arcidiacono is a dependable, back-end rotation player.
But the Bulls’ turnover issues are, at least in part, a result of the lack of a true point on the roster. White is averaging 5.9 assists and 2.8 turnovers in 34.3 minutes. That he played 10 minutes below his season average against the Celtics stood out for reasons beyond the fact it marked his season-low total.
“He didn’t take a lot of shots (Monday) night,” Donovan said, citing White’s 2-for-6 effort. “I think he’s trying to run the offense and do the things we are asking him to do.”
White has two single-digit and one scoreless game in his last seven. He only had one such game -- nine points in the opener -- during his first 10.
“It’s not really affecting me,” White said of his lack of scoring. “I try to still run the team and do what I do. I can’t control if the shots fall or not. But I can control running the team and how hard I play so that’s what I’m going to focus on.”
And he’ll do so with the belief and backing of his coach.