Why businesslike approach might be White's best attribute

  • Most of Coby White's rookie season with the Bulls was not a spectacular success. But it ended with a strong nine-game run that had the Bulls rethinking what might be possible.

    Most of Coby White's rookie season with the Bulls was not a spectacular success. But it ended with a strong nine-game run that had the Bulls rethinking what might be possible. Associated Press

Updated 5/9/2020 10:56 PM

Fifteenth in a series

Coby White's best attribute may not be his speed or shooting touch.


It's his attitude. Before the NBA season was suspended, White maintained a serious, businesslike approach to his rookie year.

Whether the Bulls won or lost, whether White played well or not, he always stayed focused on getting better. His older brother Will moved to Chicago to serve as a workout partner. Together, they seemed determined to fulfill the vision of their father Donald, who passed away from liver cancer in 2017.

On every Instagram post, White adds the hashtag "FMF," which stands for For My Father.

This attitude helps explain how White was able to shake off long stretches of poor play and it's probably the reason he ended with a flourish. He just kept working until reaching a payoff.

It was almost like someone flipped a switch. Starting on Feb. 22 against Phoenix, White scored at least 33 points in three consecutive games. The scoring outburst made things tougher since he became the focus of opposing defenses, but White didn't give in.

Over the final nine games, White averaged 26.1 points, 4.4 assists and 4.2 rebounds, while shooting 43.2 percent from 3-point range. At midseason, he wasn't good enough to be selected for the Rising Stars game, even though Chicago hosted All-Star Weekend.

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By the end of the season, White was challenging Zion Williamson and Ja Morant for the best performing rookie. And the last five games of the surge happened while Zach LaVine was sidelined with a quad strain.

The sudden halt of the NBA season didn't really affect the Bulls, since they were going nowhere anyway. It hardly matters if they play again this season. If anything, though, it would have been nice to see White working alongside LaVine in the starting lineup.

How will it look next year? Well, keep in mind, White's hot streak was just nine games. He had his share of struggles throughout most of the season.

White is not a lock to make the all-rookie first team. Over the full season, he's the seventh-leading rookie scorer, trailing Williamson, Morant, Kendrick Nunn, R.J. Barrett, Eric Paschall and Rui Hachimura.


Most NBA superstars start dominating from Day 1, but it's become more common in the era of one-and-done college players for guys to have a bit of a learning curve. This makes it tough to project White's career path, though.

White played well in his first two games with the Bulls, then in mid-November he tossed up literally one of the hottest shooting streaks in league history. Over a three quarters on Nov. 12 and 14 -- a fourth quarter against the Knicks and first two quarters against the Bucks two days later -- White made 12 of 16 shots from 3-point range. The record for 3-pointers in a single game is 14 (by Klay Thompson against the Bulls).

Over the next 44 games, White hit 20 points just twice. He averaged 10.5 points while shooting 33.8 percent from 3-point range during that stretch. That's why there's a reluctance to declare White the Bulls' next great star.

But those last nine games were encouraging. Early in the season, White seemed to have eyes only for the basket. By the end of the year, his assists increased and he cut down on his own bad shots.

"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."

It's difficult to project where White will be next season, but we do know he's willing to put in the work.

• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls


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