With only four regular-season games left in the 2021-22 campaign for the Bulls, it would have been nice for the locker room to come out of Saturday’s showdown with Miami with some certainty.
It was far from that.
Alex Caruso’s back issues only worsened, with coach Billy Donovan admitting that his defensive-minded guard had “a problem.” That was evident in Donovan playing him only 22 minutes.
All-Star Zach LaVine half-kidded that it would be nice for him to get a few games off this upcoming week, especially with his left knee soreness still coming and going from day-to-day.
And then there’s veteran DeMar DeRozan, who hasn’t played these many minutes in a season since he was 24 years old and a Toronto Raptor.
All of that wrapped up in a pretty bow for a team that was now 1-12 against the top four teams in the Eastern Conference, with the playoffs just weeks away.
That’s why the Bulls bench, and specifically Coby White, could not only be important this next week to help finish out the regular season, but come playoff time also needs to be up and running with some consistency.
White’s latest shooting slump couldn’t come at a worse time.
Over his last 10 games, White was getting 22.4 minutes per game, but only averaging 8.4 points, while shooting 23.5% from long-range. Pre-All-Star Break White was hitting over 40% of his threes. The latest rut included an 0-for-7 showing against Miami, despite getting open look after open look with the Heat double-teaming LaVine and DeRozan frequently.
So what gives?
Both Donovan and White weren’t really sure, but they also knew that only White could get himself out of it.
“I haven’t been shooting the ball well from three,” White said. “For me, it’s just continuing to shoot. It doesn’t matter if I go zero-for-10, if I go zero-for-11. The bad thing would be if I stopped shooting, if I stopped taking the open shot.
“My teammates tell me to keep shooting. I cannot change it. I put in a lot of time and effort to this game. I believe in myself and I have confidence regardless of what other people say or think. I got some clean looks that didn”t fall. Honestly, [Saturday] was one of the more cleaner looks I got all year. I love those shots for me. I know my team loved those shots for me, so I’m going to keep shooting.”
He wasn’t going to get resistance with that idea, either, especially from the likes of a LaVine, who came out of March also battling with very hot and cold nights the last month.
“I think Coby shot the right shots,” LaVine said. “He just missed. It’s tough to get in rhythm sometimes when rotations switch up. I think he’ll be OK. He’s tough. He’s dealt with missing shots before, being in a weird situation with rotations. He’ll take it in stride.”
What Donovan wants to see is White stop carrying his poor shooting nights to the other aspects of his game. He’s not the lone culprit for the Bulls guilty of that, but in White’s 15 games played in March, there were 11 of them in which he had four assists or fewer. Yes, he’s no longer playing the point guard spot as frequently, but that doesn’t mean there’s not passes for White to make on the offensive end.
“If he’s not making shots, there are other things in his game that he can do,” Donovan said. “He can get into the teeth of the defense. He can pass. He can make some plays. He can get downhill. … There’s more to Coby than him just making the three-point shot.”