Bulls

Three Things to Watch: Bulls square off against Rubio and the Jazz

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USA TODAY

Three Things to Watch: Bulls square off against Rubio and the Jazz

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Bulls take on the Utah Jazz on Sunday on NBC Sports Chicago+ and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live.

1. This is an entirely different team without Rudy Gobert

Rudy Gobert is the best post defender in the NBA, and he's the main reason Utah has one of the best defenses in the league every year. But a bone bruise in his right knee has kept him out since Nov. 11, and he was slated to miss four-to-six weeks when first diagnosed. The Jazz had the NBA's third best defense (100.2) at the time of the injury. Since then Utah's defense rating has skyrocketed to 106.9, good for 21st best in the NBA over the last two weeks. The Bulls have struggled on offense this season, but without Gobert they should be able to get inside more and score a few easy buckets.

2. Ricky Rubio dazzles every time out

It seems as though Ricky Rubio has been around forever, but he's still just 27 years old. And in his first season away from the Timberwolves he's enjoying one of his best seasons. He's up to 13.2 points per game with Utah, and while his assists are at a career-low (5.1) he's still leading a Jazz offense that has been top-10 since Gobert's injury. He's also one of the league's best defenders, so Kris Dunn and Jerian Grant will get all they can handle against him.

3. Great time to see them

The Jazz are without their leader in Gobert and are just coming off a four-game East Coast road trip in which they went 1-3. After a 5-3 start they have lost eight of their last 10 games and are just settling back in. If there was ever a perfect time for the Bulls to be seeing the Jazz it's now. Of course the Bulls will be playing on a back-to-back, but this is as close to best-case scenario as you're going to get against Utah.

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Roommates, brothers, opponents: Coby White, Cam Johnson reunite and show out

Roommates, brothers, opponents: Coby White, Cam Johnson reunite and show out

Cameron Johnson had just been selected by the Phoenix Suns with the No. 11 overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft. At the time, the move was a surprise — Johnson was projected to fall into the middle to late first round, despite averaging 16.9 points and shooting 45.7% from 3 in his last year at North Carolina.

So, elation was a natural response for all close to Johnson. And nobody displayed that elation more authentically — nor more publicly — than Johnson’s teammate, roommate and ‘little brother’ Coby White (who had been picked by the Bulls just four slots earlier). You remember the clip:

That familial bond was grown over many nights bunking together on the road during White’s one and only year at UNC. It all began on a week-long trip to the Bahamas in advance of last season.

“Coming in, I'm the type of dude where if I don't really know you, then I don't talk a lot,” White said. “And then Cam was like ‘Why you so anti(-social)?’ and then it kinda started from there. He became a guy I could always go to if I ever needed something, on or off the court.”

“You know, seniors pair with freshmen, make sure they're everybody they need to be on time,” Johnson, a fifth-year in 2018-19, said. “But he was, like, a mature, easy, no-drama freshman. His composure was at a very high level, his maturity was at a very high level.”

White scoffed at that, saying he got a similar rep (of being ‘mature’) in his first weeks with the Bulls. “I was like nah just trust me,” he said. “And now I'm like that little brother that's annoying them.”

Still, Johnson and White became fast friends over their overlapping year in Chapel Hill. Though it’s been tough to keep in touch amid the rigors of their first NBA seasons, they each agreed competing against each other was a fun change of pace.

“It was great seeing him, I hadn't seen him in a long time, so it was great seeing him,” White said. “We talk here and there, but because we're so busy — it's one of those things, like, you know no matter what we're gonna have each other's backs, we always gonna be there for each other when we need each other.”

“I love that kid, man. I tell you, most of the time when we talk it’s just saying what’s up and just reminding each other that we love each other,” Johnson said. “That’s my guy and I went over and gave him a big hug before I went on the court today.”

 

What ensued come gametime was special for all. In the contest — a 112-104 Suns victory — White poured in a career-high 33 points and canned seven 3-pointers, shooting 11-for-22 from the field. Johnson notched 11 points and three 3-pointers, and made all of them count.

“It was fun, but I hate him so much,” White said of Johnson, who hit two of his three 3-pointers in the game’s fourth quarter. “I just know whenever he shoots if he gets any type of open look it's going in. So every time he shot it in my head, I'm like mad cause I'm like, he's the one you just can't leave him open. The ball just kept finding him in open space.”

But then, with a smile: “But obviously it's all love. After the game, I talked to him, he told me he was proud of me and whatnot. He's like a big brother to me, so it means a lot.”

There’s just something about these Tar Heels. With Roy Williams at the United Center on Nov. 12, White set a Bulls record for 3-pointers in a quarter with seven in the fourth against the Knicks. Tonight, lined up across from Johnson, he scored the second-most points in Bulls franchise history by a rookie off the bench.

He, Johnson and Bulls fans everywhere, will be counting down the days until the team visits Phoenix on April 5.

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Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Coby White drops career high vs Suns

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Coby White drops career high vs Suns

On this edition of the Bulls Outsiders podcast, Matt Peck, David Watson, and Allana Tachauer discuss Coby White's big night, a hypothetical created by the Chicago Sun-Times Joe Cowley, and discuss Dwyane Wade's jersey retirement in Miami.

0:45 - Allana Tachauer joins the show for John Sabine

1:15 - Recap of Coby White's career night vs the Suns

6:30 - Breakdown of the Bulls bigs on Saturday

9:10 - What is Zach LaVine's level of frustration?

11:00 - Fans miss John Sabine's gloves

13:30 - Can Coby compete with Ja Morant for best PG from 2019 NBA Draft?

16:45 - Would you rather have LaVine's or Booker's contract going forward?

21:40 - Viewer comment about Felicio/Harrison/Arcidiacono getting 40 minutes?!

25:00 - Dwyane Wade's number gets retired: Allana tries not to cry

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Bulls Outsiders

Subscribe:

 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.