Is Coby White's hot streak changing the outlook on the Bulls' future?
During the second half of the Bulls' surprisingly competitive loss to Oklahoma City, it felt like someone finally pried open the rusty lid of a Mason jar and let the stale air escape.
The Bulls were competitive; dangerous almost. Suddenly, there was hope for the future, something that hadn't been visible at the United Center for a while.
Zach LaVine (41 points) and Coby White (35) looked like an unstoppable scoring duo; maybe an Eastern Conference version of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum; at least something to build around.
"I don't know how good we can be, but I know we both individually want to be great," LaVine said after Tuesday's game. "We put the work in for it."
This is a huge improvement from the outlook of, say, last week.
Back then, the best chance for optimism was if every player eventually got healthy and the team snagged another No. 7 draft pick, then maybe in the summer of 2021 when the bad contracts of Otto Porter and Cristiano Felicio finally expire -- maybe the Bulls could make some moves and start challenging for that pesky No. 8 seed in the East.
An occasional big game is usually not worth getting worked up about, but this was White's third-straight with at least 33 points. He's the first NBA rookie to ever do that off the bench. Two weeks ago, he wasn't even a poor man's Ben Gordon, but everything seemed to click over the weekend.
Seeing results instead of hoping for potential is a nice change in Year 3 of the sputtering Bulls' rebuild. LaVine has been telling people all year that White had this in him.
"I've said this since Day 1: He's special," LaVine said. "He can score the ball like no other. He's continuing to get better. He's 20 years old. He's starting to find his groove right now."
I asked White if anything's changed in his routine. He's often regarded as a workout warrior, with his older brother Will in town to rebound for him during late-night sessions at the Advocate Center.
"I don't come in at night as much anymore because of the season," White said. "But I still like to get my work in, either before or after practice. I'm starting to do it before shootaround or before practice now. I come in 50 minutes to an hour earlier and just get my work in, so at night I can just rest and be off my feet."
So has he given his brother other tasks, since there's not so much night shooting these days?
"He's still in grad school, so he's doing a lot of homework and stuff, I guess," White said.
This hot streak won't last forever, but for three games, White has been efficient. He's shot 57.4 percent from the field overall and 58.1 from 3-point range. He's tossed up 31 shots from 3 and 30 from 2.
"I just think I'm in a good rhythm right now," White said. "I think the big thing for me was just shot preparation, being ready to shoot and being ready to attack when I get the ball and don't overthink and just go out there and play."
While the Bulls have been short-handed, LaVine cranked up a few high-scoring games. But mostly he's gotten overwhelming attention from opposing defenses and missed having a second scorer on the floor.
"I can take a couple breaks off the ball. I don't have to go out there and create everything because he's doing it," LaVine said. "He's scoring, he's facilitating, he's pushing the pace.
"They can't load up. If either one of us is hot, they can't just stack their defense and make us pass, make us take a tough shot. Now they've got to at least respect a dude that's hot."
Tuesday's game gave an additional glimpse into a potential Bulls' future. Maybe Lauri Markkanen doesn't have to become an all-star. Maybe he's suited to be someone like Thunder forward Danilo Gallinari, a solid third option.
And maybe the Bulls should worry less about their shot chart.
LaVine reached 30 points in the third quarter against OKC with no 3-point baskets or free throws. He got there with 15 2-point shots, because he knew his 3-pointer wasn't working. He eventually knocked down a couple of 3s late in the game, including one from the horn of the midcourt logo.
"I know how to adjust my game, I work on it," LaVine said of his heavy night of 2s. "It might not be our system, but sometimes you've got to do what you've got to do."
Maybe Tuesday's 2-point loss will be as good as it gets for the Bulls this season. At least for one night, though, you didn't have to squint to imagine a brighter future.