In sports, you want veterans on a team to set an example for the younger players. Just as important, though, those younger players have to pick up on those examples set, especially when they aren’t necessarily direct.
This past summer, one of the Chicago Bulls’ younger players followed in the footsteps of teammate DeMar DeRozan whose offseason workouts are fast becoming legendary.
No, not Patrick Williams, though he was the one DeRozan trained with. It was fourth-year guard Coby White who spoke out about a key change to his offseason routine that has him playing with a visible confidence he had not shown in previous seasons but was on full display in the Bulls’ 114-107 victory over the Utah Jazz.
“Shout out Johnny Dribble2Much”, proclaimed White who had 15 points on 6-for-9 shooting.
Coby’s Handle is Tighter
Trainer Johnny “Dribble2Much Stephene gained notoriety in the basketball world for his work with stars including but not limited to DeRozan and Williams who trained with the former during his infamous “summer from hell” with the Bulls’ five-time All-Star.
Williams and White also got work in with Sthephene on their own and he tagged the latter in an Instagram post over the summer giving him lofty praise.
“We got it in all summer,” White told Bulls play-by-play man, Adam Amin. “I knew that was one thing I had to work on coming in and [Bulls head coach Billy Donovan] told me that was a big key for me. So this whole summer, I just worked on my ballhandling. Getting it tighter…dribbling in traffic. It’s been beneficial for me.”
White’s handle has shown up in the form of a career-high dunk rate. But that has only equated to one dunk in 12 games after he had five 61 appearances last season.
Where it really shows up is on drives like the one on former Bulls’ cornerstone Lauri Markkanen.
“I just trusted my work ethic,” White said. “I had a quad injury. But when I was able to come back and shoot, I got up a ton of shots. So just trust in my work and my teammates trust me also, so I’m glad they’re willing to trust me at the end of games.”
White’s efficiency is down on the season as he’s hit 34.5% of his three after canning 38.5% last season. But, over the last three games, he is shooting a shade under 53% from downtown; a key development for the Bulls who are light on perimeter shooting and who are 3-2 since his return from injury.
That last note from White is not an insignificant one either as he has been on the floor in the closing minutes of each of the Bulls’ last two wins ahead of starters Williams or Ayo Dosunmu.
Both figure to have more-certain futures in Chicago than White who has been on the trade block for the last year with the Bulls seeking a rotation and a player in return. White is expected to be available once again near the deadline this season.
The former seventh-overall pick in 2018 isn’t letting that slow him and it did begin this summer.
Coby’s Offseason Paid Off
White said before the season that he felt he made major strides in what was his first healthy offseason. Bulls postgame analyst Kendall Gill spoke after the game on what a difference he’s seen.
“Coby had difficulty handling the ball as a point guard the last two years,” admitted Gill citing a take from an NBA official. “And he recognized that…and he worked his butt off this summer strictly on his ball-handling. Now, the one thing that ball handling does for you as a player, it gives you ultimate confidence. Because you can go anywhere you want to go. You’re not afraid of defenders getting in your face or reaching for the basketball because now you know you have the skill set to deal with that.”
Gill went on to say that he has seen White implement dribbling drills into his pre-game routine this season, something he hadn’t done in previous seasons.
What that means for his trade value – or perhaps even Bulls’ future – remains to be seen.