Bulls move rookie Coby White into the starting lineup
Coby White joining Zion Williamson and Ja Morant at the top of this year's rookie class is about as good a result as the Bulls could have asked from this season.
So with White's streak of quality games up to eight in a row, coach Jim Boylen made the move to put the rookie guard from North Carolina in the starting lineup for the first time.
White will start Tuesday when the Bulls host Cleveland, along with Shaq Harrison, Denzel Valentine, Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. Tomas Satoransky will shift to a reserve role.
"It means a lot, I'm excited and whatnot," White said Monday at the Advocate Center. "But like I said, just going to approach it the same way.
"I played with the first unit a lot, even when I was off the bench, so I just approach it like all the other games I've been approaching. I'm just coming in, playing hard and just doing my job."
White's no-nonsense approach has impressed the Bulls since last year's draft when he was the No. 7 overall pick. He's a hard worker and never expressed a single concern publicly about when he might join the starting lineup.
The timeline appears to have worked out well. White struggled with his shot for long stretches in December and January, then everything seemed to click suddenly when he went three straight games of scoring at least 33 points. His point guard skills have also improved. On Sunday in Brooklyn, he had 8 assists and no turnovers in 35 minutes.
"I think the biggest thing is this is the next stage in his development," Boylen said. "He's earned this opportunity. He's grown into this opportunity. And we'll take it a game at a time and we'll coach him the same way we've been coaching him. I'm excited for him."
White's improvement has created some enthusiasm for a future backcourt of White and Zach LaVine. Unfortunately, that won't happen against Cleveland. LaVine will miss his fifth straight game with a left quad strain, but he should be back relatively soon. The Bulls finish the week with a trip to Orlando and Miami.
Over the last eight games, White has averaged 26.9 points and 4.4 assists, while shooting 49 percent overall and 44.6 percent from 3-point range. Since Feb. 1, he's the league's second-leading rookie scorer behind Williamson, the No. 1 overall pick with New Orleans.
"Coach talked to me today about it and he wants me to approach it the same way I've been approaching the game," White said. "Going out there and doing my job, getting everybody involved and still finding my ways to score, but just getting everybody involved and running the team."
Satoransky has started every game so far this season, but moving him to the bench appears to be the right move. By keeping Harrison in the starting lineup, White won't have to guard Cavs leading scorer Collin Sexton, who has been on a scoring spree since Cleveland replaced coach John Beilein with J.B. Bickerstaff.
"Tomas was great. Tomas is a professional," Boylen said. "Tomas was good. He was really good. Tomas just wants to help the team win. He'll do that in any role we give him. That's why we wanted him. He's a team guy and it's good."
Player, team Points
1. Zion Williamson, NO 25.1
2. Coby White, Bulls 21.0
3. Ja Morant, Mem 17.9
4. Eric Paschall, GS 15.7
5. Cam Reddish, Atl 14.4