Billy Donovan: ‘He’s Going to Be a Work in Progress’

Getty Billy Donovan

On Wednesday night, on the second half of a road back-to-back, the Chicago Bulls dropped a tough one to the Sacramento Kings 128-124.

The Bulls’ backcourt performed well as Coby White had a career-high 36 points with 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and no turnovers. Zach LaVine scored 32 points a night after sinking the Portland Trail Blazers in a thriller that went Chicago’s way.

After the game, White was a hot topic of conversation during the team’s media sessions. Bulls head coach Billy Donovan was asked about White’s development as a point guard. He had a very interesting response.

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Donovan said, it “is going to be a work in progress with him [White].”

You might wonder how Donovan could have such an ambiguous response to a question about White on a night when he had a career-high in points.

Well, you have to understand the situation and all of the components. If you watch his body language and the other words he uses when talking about White, Donovan knows his young guard hasn’t become a true point guard.

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Coby’s Role Has Changed

The Bulls began the season playing White at the point guard. Quite honestly, he didn’t look comfortable running the offense or creating for others at times. White is a scorer, and he has proven to be his best playing off the ball and attacking in isolation situations.

Over the past 2 games, LaVine has assumed the playmaking responsibilities. When you consider White’s role as the “point guard” has changed, Donovan’s answer makes more sense.

While White shined on Wednesday knifing to the basket for an array of off-the-window finishes and he also drained 4 of his 9 three-point attempts, he really wasn’t playing a facilitator role. Quite honestly, the Bulls may have already made the decision, White isn’t ever going to be a traditional point guard.

We won’t know if this role switch is permanent until Tomas Satoransky returns from the COVID-19 restricted list, but anyone who watches the games can tell you the offense runs better when Lavine or Sato is at the helm and White is looking for his shot.

Stumbling in Sactown

The Bulls couldn’t get over the hump against the Kings who were led by the superlative play of rookie Tyrese Haliburton (17 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals and a block) and veteran big man Richaun Holmes (24 points and 8 rebounds). As good as Haliburton and Holmes were, the Bulls had their chances.

LaVine saved the day on Tuesday night against Portland, but on Wednesday he hurt his team with questionable shot selection down the stretch. Down one point with a minute remaining in the game, LaVine chose to take a contested, flat-footed three-point shot within the first seven seconds of the shot clock. LaVine didn’t try to get a better look or to find a teammate–including White who had been red hot.

He again showed the troubling tendency to take ill-advised shots at the worst times. The Kings rebounded LaVine’s miss and quickly turned it into a four-point play when Garrett Temple fouled Buddy Hield shooting a three-point shot. That sequence effectively ended the Bulls’ chances of winning the game.

So while I agree with Donovan’s take on White’s progression at the point guard spot, LaVine is also still learning how to be a closer in the NBA. He’s still making too many bad decisions with the game on the line.

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