Boylen should get credit for making right call with White

  • Chicago Bulls' Coby White (0) goes up for a shot against Washington Wizards' Troy Brown Jr. (6) and Jerome Robinson (12) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020, in Chicago. Chicago won 126-117.

    Chicago Bulls' Coby White (0) goes up for a shot against Washington Wizards' Troy Brown Jr. (6) and Jerome Robinson (12) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020, in Chicago. Chicago won 126-117.

Updated 2/24/2020 7:51 PM

The Bulls finally got another breakthrough from Coby White over the weekend. After a quiet few months, White erupted for back-to-back 33-point games against Phoenix and Washington.

Now shouldn't coach Jim Boylen get some credit for being patient with White and resisting calls to throw him in the startling lineup?


Of course, plenty of people will disagree with that statement, but Boylen made the right call on White. For the vast majority of the season, the rookie from North Carolina has struggled to find consistency and add more to his game.

He hasn't been a guy on the verge of stardom this whole time. He's a young, developing player who is shooting an underwhelming 38 percent from the field on the season.

Pushing him into the starting lineup while he's still finding his way as a reserve just puts more on his plate.

Does he play on or off the ball? Does he defer to Zach LaVine? Does he have to take on the toughest defensive matchup?

White's primary skill is still scoring. The Bulls want him to be a better playmaker but shouldn't turn him into a playmaker. Instant offense from the bench is a valuable role in the NBA and might turn out to be the right role for White long term. For a guy who just turned 20 last weekend, small steps are beneficial.

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"We've got a second group that's playing pretty good again and we're also melding Coby into that first group at times in the game," Boylen said after Sunday's streak-breaking win over the Wizards. "I don't know if it makes sense to do that. We'll examine it, we'll look at it."

Keep in mind, two 33-point games don't necessarily mean White has arrived. He had four 20-point outings in his first 17 games with the Bulls. Then he had one 20-point night in the next 39 games before cashing in last weekend.

Here are some numbers that seem telling: In wins, White is shooting 46.4 percent overall and 42.2 percent from 3-point range. In losses, those numbers plummet to 33.9 and 31.2.

Since the Bulls never beat good teams, that's essentially a bad opponent/good opponent split.

Starting games isn't going to help White all that much, but it could hurt if he has trouble adjusting to a new role. The process of figuring out how good White can be might take a few years. Lauri Markkanen is wrapping up his third season and the Bulls still aren't sure about his future.


Meanwhile, nitpicking Boylen's coaching decisions has become an ongoing comedy routine. Most of them have no effect on the outcome of games, so one of the easiest ways for Boylen to improve his performance would be to answer those postgame questions decisively and move on.

NBA coaches make hundreds of small decisions every game and you never know the alternate outcome. A coach might run out of timeouts late in a game, but maybe he needed it more when the other team was making a run in the third quarter. There's never a correct answer.

The Bulls' disappointing season was caused by big-picture issues -- injuries, a poorly conceived roster and a few years worth of bad personnel decisions. Boylen's a first-time head coach who is bound to make mistakes along the way. This team is a long way from being good, so it can be baffling why so much energy is spent attacking his coaching.

If there's reason to fault Boylen and the coaching staff, it would be the decision to go all-in on a Houston Rockets-style, 3-pointers, layups or nothing offense. The Bulls don't have the long-range shooters to make that work, and it was an especially poor fit for someone like Kris Dunn, who turned out to be one of their more valuable players this season.

That's another example of the front office and coaching staff not being in sync, an issue that's plagued the Bulls in recent years. Hopefully they can agree on the best way to help White develop.

• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls


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