Bulls’ Coby White ready for anything in critical fourth season

Coby White ready for anything in critical fourth season originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

In keeping with the eclectic nature of Coby White’s NBA career, the Chicago Bulls fourth-year guard spent his 2022 offseason spraying to all developmental fields.

Adding muscle in the weight room. Refining his ball-handling. Shooting off the catch and dribble. Footwork on defense.

“I was just happy I could get a summer where I could work on my game with the people I wanted around me,” White said during his first media session of training camp on Thursday.

Funny as it may sound, that is a new opportunity for White. His first NBA season — and offseason — was disrupted by the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. His second summer in the league was derailed by a torn labrum that required surgery in June 2021.

Through it all, he has worn many hats for the Bulls, from starting point guard to second-string spark plug. His role in Year 4 is likely to skew towards the latter, but the Bulls like his versatility.

“The one thing we had talked about going into the summer, and this was even after we signed Goran (Dragić) and Andre (Drummond), is like, ‘Listen. There's a lot of things you do. It doesn't need to always be, you gotta be at the point, you always gotta be at the two (shooting guard),’” head coach Billy Donovan said of White. “‘You've gotta play to your strengths.’

“(We) wanted him to focus on his defense, I think he really tried to do that; wanted him to focus on off-ball shooting and catching; wanted him to focus on playing in pick-and-roll; wanted him to focus on impacting the game on both ends of the floor.”

Added White: “I take pride in being able to play multiple positions, so that's nothing new to me. I've been doing that since I've been here. I take pride in playing [point guard, shooting guard and small forward]. Wherever they want me at. I always say as long as I'm getting minutes and on the floor I don’t really care.”

It is admittedly easy to overlook White in a backcourt room as crowded as the Bulls’. Even with Lonzo Ball sidelined indefinitely, Alex Caruso, Ayo Dosunmu and Dragić are all due significant minutes. White, it could be argued, is the least-consistently known commodity of the bunch.

But if the Bulls are to build on last season’s success, he can have an important role to play. For all the fan consternation over last season’s inconsistency, White shot a career-best 38.5 percent from 3-point range on 5.8 attempts per game, third behind Zach LaVine and the absent Ball on a team that finished last in the league in that category (and 28th in 3-point makes per game).

White’s first foray into playoff action laid bare defensive and decision-making shortcomings, leading to his removal from the rotation before Caruso suffered a concussion early in Game 4. But part of the value of young players experiencing high-leverage basketball is the evaluation and improvement that can come from it.

“To actually win and go to the playoffs, I feel like for the young guys it was a learning experience for us and we took a lot from it,” White said. “Just build on it for this year.”

The 2022-23 season is a significant one for White as well. He is eligible for a rookie-scale extension this offseason, but should one not be reached, will be a restricted free agent next summer.

“Nah,” White said when asked if he has something to prove in light of that dynamic. “I just play basketball, bro. I'm just looking at it as another season. Come in, help my team. We're really focused on winning here, going to the second round of the playoffs and so on.

“Whatever I can do to help my team do that, that's all I care about. And I believe everything else will take care of itself.”

As it has throughout his NBA career, that could involve a lot of different responsibilities. White is prepared for anything.

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