White makes season debut vs. Lakers, needs to find role in new lineup

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Bulls guard Alex Caruso, left, reacts in on Los Angeles Lakers guard Wayne Ellington during the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Nov. 15, 2021, in Los Angeles.

    Chicago Bulls guard Alex Caruso, left, reacts in on Los Angeles Lakers guard Wayne Ellington during the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Nov. 15, 2021, in Los Angeles.

 
Updated 11/16/2021 12:16 AM

While Coby White was sidelined with a shoulder injury, the Bulls traded for Lonzo Ball, signed Alex Caruso and drafted Ayo Dosunmu.

So where does White fit in? That process began late Monday night when the third-year guard made his season debut against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center.

 

White had a quiet game, but the Bulls roared to a convincing 121-103 victory over the Lakers, completing a two-game LA sweep in just over 24 hours. Lakers star Anthony Davis was ejected in the third quarter after getting his second technical foul, finishing with 20 points.

Scoring was not an issue for the Bulls in this one. DeMar DeRozan tallied 38 points, his fifth 30-point game in the last nine. Lonzo Ball stuck it to his former team with a season-high 27 points, while hitting 7 of 10 attempts from 3-point range.

Zach LaVine added 26 points, while Ball tacked on 8 assists and 7 rebounds. White went scoreless in 11 minutes, going 0-for-2 from the field.

"I don't have any expectation on him here, at least tonight," Bulls coach Billy Donovan said of White before the game. "I think him just getting his feet wet and playing. I think with the minimal amount of practice time and minimal amount of contact he's had, he's going to have to get it through playing in these games. That could be a long process for him, to get back to where he was. We'll see how he plays."

Dosunmu worked his way into the rotation quickly, but he's scored in double figures in just two of the 12 games he's played. White averaged 15.1 points last season and the Bulls could use a little more scoring balance to help out DeRozan and LaVine, who rank among the top eight scorers in the league.

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"I think Ayo's given us really good minutes this year. Certainly want to keep him as engaged as possible," Donovan said. "We used Troy (Brown Jr.) last game too, so I think keeping all these guys engaged and ready is important."

White suffered a torn labrum in his left shoulder while working out in North Carolina early this summer and had surgery in June. So White not only missed training camp but an entire summer of work.

It's hard to know where his game will be, let alone how he'll fit in with the revamped roster. White and LaVine are the only two players remaining from the day Arturas Karnisovas was hired as director of basketball operations.

It's also conceivable the Bulls could look to use White as trade bait to acquire a more traditional power forward. But NBA trades tend to happen closer to the February deadline, and the Bulls are still trying to figure things out with the new personnel.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"The thing I really like about him is he has a high level of personal accountability," Donovan said of White. "He's not a finger-pointer or a blamer. He always looks at what he could have done better, how he could have played better. I think that's always been his mentality and he's pretty focused on what he can control.

"He can't control what happened with the trades, he can't control once the injury happened. Working is generally where he puts his focus. I don't get the sense there are outside things on his mind."

Donovan made a change to the starting lineup for Sunday's 100-90 victory over the L.A. Clippers, adding Caruso at power forward and moving Javonte Green to a reserve role. The Bulls stuck with those starters against the Lakers.

After Sunday's game, Donovan said he thought Green could add some energy to the bench and felt Caruso could help space the floor with his driving ability. The first substitution Monday was Jones for center Tony Bradley.

"Maybe using Javonte and Derrick (Jones Jr's) energy out there athletically where we can switch, try to trap some, be disruptive and try to get them a little more active," Donovan said. "It's a little bit unconventional, but I felt like it was playing to those guys' strengths."

During the first timeout of Monday's game, the Lakers played a video tribute for Caruso, a fan favorite in LA for the past three seasons. When it ended, Caruso waved at the crowd and accepted a hug from former teammate LeBron James, who is sidelined by an abdominal strain.

"I know there will be some emotions on my part," Caruso said Sunday. "It's a special place for me for four years. Anytime you win a championship, it's really special coming back, and doing it in LA with the Lakers, historically one of the best franchises in the league. The bonds I have are still there. But obviously when the ball goes up I'll be pretty focused on the game."

• Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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