When Zach LaVine was ruled out indefinitely, entered into the league’s health and safety protocol, the Chicago Bulls knew someone was going to have to step up.
On the defensive end, that’s been 11th-year guard Garrett Temple.
But on offense, the Bulls have turned to second-year guard Coby White.
And he’s responded, helping Chicago to a 2-1 record in LaVine’s absence.
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Ball Movement, Limited Turnovers
The largest improvements for Coby White and the Chicago Bulls offense have been in the details.
As a team, they recorded 30 assists on 41 made field goals in their latest, statement win over the Boston Celtics, and they turned the ball over just 12 times.
The game prior, in a win over the Cleveland Cavaliers? 30 assists on 41 makes and 10 recorded turnovers.
And in their first game without LaVine, a 126-115 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, the Bulls tallied 34 assists on 45 made field goals, and committed just 11 turnovers.
Credit White, who in two of those three games committed just one turnover. He’s averaging 18 points and 7.7 assists, helping to keep the ball moving for Chicago.
When asked what was to credit (via NBC Sports) for the increased precision in his ball handling, White responded with the name of one Hall of Famer point guard:
Mo Cheeks. He’s been on me the whole season about it, but especially now. Just taking care of the ball. Being the point guard, that’s my responsibility. I give credit to Mo Cheeks. He’s been on me about it. Just telling me to make the simple play and go from A to B, not A to D or A to C. Make it simple.
Cheeks, who had his own 15-year career in the NBA, and won a championship in 1983 with the Philadelphia 76ers, has served as head coach Billy Donovan’s lead assistant coach this season.
White told reporters that the two talk often, and he relishes the opportunity to study under a Hall of Famer:
We talk a lot, especially off the court, not only about basketball but just about life. He just tells me don’t make the same turnover twice. Learn from each turnover that you have. He said his biggest thing was just taking care of the ball when he was a point guard… He’s a Hall-of-Fame point guard and I want to learn as much as I can from him.
Give credit where credit is due.
The Chicago Bulls are seeing growth from the second-year guard at a time when they’ve needed it most.
Updated Bulls Playoff Odds
After their victory over the Boston Celtics, the Chicago Bulls are 24-33.
That’s good for the Eastern Conference’s 10th-seed, with a number of teams (Toronto, Washington) hot on their heels for the final play-in spot.
Five Thirty Eight has the Bulls’ playoff chances at seven percent.
That’s tied with the Wizards for the worst odds among teams with a greater than one percent chance.
The website’s forecast heavily favors Toronto to make the postseason, with an 18 percent chance.
Tankathon.com has Chicago’s remaining schedule as the seventh-toughest in the entire NBA.
So the odds are against the Chicago Bulls, even after back-to-back wins.
15 games to go.