On a night when he helped save the day in a key victory on the second night of a back-to-back, fourth-year Chicago Bulls guard Coby White had a strong message for his top teammates.
The Bulls completed a sweep of the regular season series against the Miami Heat with a 113-99 victory that saw the Bulls get out to a hot start and build a lead of as high as 27 points. But, as has been their tendency this season, they let their lead wither in the third quarter. Miami was within single digits less than two minutes into the fourth quarter.
How were White and the Bulls able to overcome a higher seed despite potentially tired legs?
“Just a mentality thing,” White said during his walk-off interview with NBC Sports Chicago Bulls commentators Adam Amin and Stacey King on March 18. “Especially DeMar [DeRozan], Zach [LaVine], and [Nikola Vucevic]. I think they played 40-something minutes last night. And to come out here and compete at a high level like they did tonight? So, hats off. They’re professionals, they’re pros. And I think when they set the tone, everybody else just follows. So, that’s kind of how we prepared. They set the tone, we followed them.”
White would drop a team-high eight of his 18 points in the final frame including either scoring or assisting on nine of their final 15 points.
This was White’s best effort since scoring 25 points in a loss to the Indiana Pacers on February 15. While White has just scored in double figures in just two of the last five games as his team has gone 4-1, he has recorded a positive plus-minus in three of those games and has been a net-negative in just one.
Both of those double-digit scoring outings have come in the last three games along with his three-point shooting. White has knocked down 14-of-25 (55.6%) of his looks from beyond the arc in that span.
Even when he’s not shooting it well, however, White has had a positive impact on games.
It’s helped him as he continues to prove his worth as a piece of the Bulls’ potential next core alongside second-year guard Ayo Dosunmu, and third-year forward Patrick Williams.
The Bulls Big Three Doing Big Things
DeRozan led the team with 24 points, tying Heat star and former Bulls cornerstone Jimmy Butler for the game-high. The Bulls All-Star also tied his season-high with 10 assists and swiped three steals.
LaVine poured in 18 points of his own knocking down 3-of-6 triples and adding seven assists (one assist short of his season high), four rebounds, and one block.
The effort snaps a personal seven-game streak of at least 25 points for LaVine.
Vucevic recorded his 44th double-double of the season, third-most in the NBA behind only Denver Nuggets star and MVP hopeful Nikola Jokic and Domantas Sabonis of the Sacramento Kings – not bad as the Bulls’ 32-year-old big man barrels toward unrestricted free agency this summer.
Coby White: Patrick Williams a ‘Superstar’
“It’s been great,” White said of the trio’s bond. “We got a great friendship off the court so it travels on the court…Us being the young guys, we in this together. We go through the same stuff together – the hardships, the good times. So, it’s been great.”
White, 23, and Williams, 21, grew up near each other in North Carolina growing close towards the end of the latter’s high school career circuit but knowing each other long before that. It’s been an up-and-down experience with the Bulls for both players who have bounced around from starter to the bench where they both seem to be finding themselves.
Williams poured in 10 points against Miami and, while he’s alternated double-digit scoring outings, he has recorded a positive plus-minus in each of the Bulls’ last five games.
White remains a big fan of Williams’ potential and his passion for basketball.
“You already know what his ceiling is…superstar,” White told NBC Sports Chicago Bulls insider K.C. Johnson on the ‘Bulls Talk Podcast’ on March 16. “The proof is in the pudding. It’s going to come. He’s just going to come because he’s too talented, too big, too strong not to be…He’s going to be an All-Star because he got all the attributes to be one and he loves basketball.”
Williams also had high praise for White and the work ethic that he holds.
“He has the talent, he has the skill, and he loves the game,” Williams said. “I feel like any player like that – that has the talent, skill, and they love the game, they love to work – I feel like their ceiling is as high as they want to take it. He can go as far as he wants to in this game.”
The younger Bull noted that White has talents that you can’t teach but also highlighted the work he’s put in to get better in weak areas citing one in particular.
“I think this year, he’s defending his a** off,” Williams said noting teams used to seek him out.
The duo’s recent resurgence is one of the better underlying storylines down the stretch and bodes well for the Bulls’ future. Two-thirds of their top trio are in their 30s and at or near the end of their contracts.
That’s why it’s imperative they continue to set a good example for their younger teammates.