Bulls

How Coby White is putting it all together over most recent hot stretch

How Coby White is putting it all together over most recent hot stretch

The shots are starting to fall for Coby White. In seven February games, the Bulls freshly-turned 20-year-old is averaging 17.7 points, 4.4 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game while shooting 35.7% from 3-point range (eight attempts per). That’s good news for the Bulls. 

And better is that’s not all that’s going right for White. Yes, consecutive career-high 33-point games — something no rookie reserve has ever done — on cumulative 55% field goal shooting (12-for-22 from deep) will grab eyes, especially on the heels of a frigid stretch between the beginning of February and the All-Star break. But after Sunday’s losing-streak-snapping 126-117 win over Washington, Bulls coach Jim Boylen peeled back the layers of White’s growth.

“I think he's been aggressive in transition, I think his finishing has been terrific, he's had the ball up and out, he's got it out of his stomach, something he's working on,” Boylen said. “I think his work pre-practice, post-practice is paying off.”

And of White’s defense: “We make a defensive (film) edit on Coby after every game. And him and I watch it together… (Early in the season) he had, of his 14 plays on the tape, you know, seven of them were good and seven of them were bad. Now it's like 10 are good and four are bad. He's climbing in that way.

“What he's finding out is: If you get into the game defensively and you follow your assignment and all that, good things happen for you at the other end. It just does. And I think he's locked in that way.”

White’s restricted area finishing has steadily improved over the season (59.3% in February) — he’s getting to the rim and finishing through contact better than ever before (White’s seven free throw attempts versus the Wizards ties a season-high). In transition, he’s a blur running off live rebounds and steals, which could prove a boon for a Bulls team that lives in the fastbreak. His decision-making and ability to change speeds in the halfcourt stand out. Defensively, though not yet perfect, he’s staying more and more connected off-ball, rotating sharply and hunting loose ball recoveries.

If the jumpers are falling, gravy. But the game slowing down for White, and his confidence growing as a result, should excite the Bulls and their fans the most. White, for his part, has learned over the course of a curious rookie campaign to control what he can control.

“It feels good,” White said of his recent red-hot shooting. “But I think now I look at the game differently than I did at the beginning of the year. Now, I just look at the games like I'm gonna go in and play hard on both ends of the court, that's all I'm gonna do. And then control what I can control — I can't control whether I miss or make shots, so. I'm just going out there and playing hard.”

That comes from Boylen, who White lauded for pushing him to continue improving, especially defensively.

“Coach Boylen was preaching to me, you gotta play defense you gotta play defense, so I took it as a challenge. And I feel like I'm continuing to get better at it. I still can get better at it,” White said. “But he pushes me, he pushes me to be a good player, so I can't knock him for that and that's the type of coach I want.”

None of the above (nor Boylen’s unconditional trust in White) has culminated in his first career start, despite clamoring from some media and fans. But perhaps that’s OK. Boylen has often preached White’s increasing comfortability leading the Bulls’ second unit — even injury-ravaged — and that comfort is starting to show up on the floor and in the stat sheet. It speaks to the labeless approach the Bulls have taken to White’s development.

“We got a second group that's playing pretty good again, and we're also melding Coby into that first group at times in the game,” Boylen said when asked if starting White could be a possibility. “So, coming off two 33-point games, I don't know if it makes sense to [start him].”

To that point: White is still getting his fair share of minutes — he played 34 tonight and is averaging 30.6 in February — and a healthy amount of time on the floor staggered alongside Zach LaVine and Tomas Satoransky. White has also played valuable minutes down the stretch of games recently and his usage rate is up to 24.1% over his last seven games. Opportunity comes in many forms.

“I feel like I'm in a good position,” White said. “This year for me wasn't about starting, it wasn't about being this being that, it was just about me getting better over the season. That's the main thing in this league, you just keep getting better. You don't want to be a guy that just stays the same the whole time.”

White certainly hasn't. The overarching point is that nights like tonight (and Saturday against Phoenix) further emphasize how crucial his continued progression will be down the 25-game stretch of this ill-fated Bulls season — whatever form it takes. Talk of a playoff push has noticeably tempered around the United and Advocate Centers, but White’s been the center of plenty of conversations.

“You see how explosive he is,” said LaVine, who’s been highly complimentary of White all year. “Trying to figure out some nicknames for him. Either like propane or gasoline or something like that. His scoring is special. He can do it in a variety of ways. He's finding his rhythm. Kid's good. He's real good.”

If we land on a pseudonym by mid-April, it’d be a welcome sign.

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Bulls Talk Podcast: How can the NBA save the 2019-2020 NBA season?

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: How can the NBA save the 2019-2020 NBA season?

Jason Goff is joined by K.C. Johnson, Rob Schaefer, and the Chicago Tribune's Jamal Collier as they discuss what's keeping them busy during the COVID-19 pandemic, the game or series they would prefer to be re-aired on television and what viable options the NBA has to get something out of the 2019-20 NBA season.

(2:07) - Dealing with the new normal during the pandemic

(7:51) - Potential NBA plan to finish the season with a "Round-Robin" style tournament

(19:20) - Preferred game/series you want re-aired on TV

(26:40) - Derrick Rose vs. Lebron James playoff series

(34:20) - Reliving the Bulls Ben Wallace era 

Listen here or below.

Bulls Talk Podcast

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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.

ESPN moving release of 'The Last Dance' documentary on 1998 Bulls to April

ESPN moving release of 'The Last Dance' documentary on 1998 Bulls to April

It's happening. We did it.

Monday night, Andrew Marchand of the New York Post reported that ESPN is moving up the release date of 'The Last Dance,' the highly anticipated 10-part documentary series on Michael Jordan and the 1998 Bulls, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

ESPN has since announced the new release date. Until now, the docuseries was billed as being released some time in June.

AP writer Tim Reynolds has the schedule, which shows the 10-part series will be aired weekly on Sundays with two episodes coming out at a time. Additionally, Reynolds said the episodes will be released on Netflix the following Mondays.

Some writing had been on the wall that this might be coming. In mid-March, commercials for 'The Last Dance' began advertising the series as 'Coming Soon' instead of 'Coming in June.' ESPN shortly thereafter dismissed rumors of the release date moving up — saying the documentary had yet to be completed — only to be indirectly contradicted by LeBron James and (ESPN employee) Richard Jefferson on the Road Trippin' podcast late last week.

Now, it's official.

So rejoice, Bulls fans and sports lovers, at large. It won't replace the entirety of the void left by the halting of live sports, but this series is sure to be essential, enthralling TV, and as close as the sports world get to a monocultural event under the current parameters.

And above all, what a win for NBA Twitter. They keep rolling in.

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.