‘I just embrace the journey’ – The Denver Post


Coby White isn’t immune to frustration. In his fourth season with the Chicago Bulls, the guard has felt the pressure to break out among a young class of NBA stars — a step that still hasn’t come for the point guard.

“People are impatient,” White joked ahead of Wednesday’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks at the United Center. “I’m only in my fourth year, I’m only 22 years old. I really should be in college.”

But as he continues to carve out his position as a key guard off the bench on both sides of the ball, White feels he’s beginning to find the key to his improvement.

After injuries and COVID-19 interrupted each of his previous summers, White finally took advantage of a full offseason. He spent last summer working out six days a week with a focus on two areas of his game: defense and ballhandling.

As a spot-up shooter, White hasn’t always been comfortable with the ball in his hands against defenders. That lack of versatility was highlighted last season, when the Bulls were stripped of point guard options because of injuries of Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso.

This season, White wanted to be able to attack closeouts and full-court transition plays with confidence to become a more viable option as a ballhandler.

“It’s just like getting shots up,” White said. “The more you do it, the more confident you’ll feel in yourself.”

White could feel the difference when he flipped a ball around his back while tiptoeing up the sideline in the final minute of the first half of Monday’s loss against the Houston Rockets.

A year ago, that move might have sent the ball into the stands or into the hands of an opponent. This winter, the juke allowed White to squirt past a defender and launch a lob for Zach LaVine to hammer through the rim.

“A lot of times this year, in transition especially, the moves I have done I would have probably lost the ball or lost control of it or dribbled it off my foot,” White said. “I see the improvement, and it makes you feel good inside just seeing what you worked on translate over into the game.”

While repetition was necessary for White to improve his ballhandling, his defensive growth came from study.

White asked the Bulls coaching staff to clip up film of his defense through last season, noticing weaknesses in his off-ball positioning and approach to ball screens. The guard had a habit of drifting out of position off the ball, leaving him scrambling to help teammates in a trap or fill a gap.

This season, White has found vocalization to be a key to holding his position, shouting to teammates throughout plays to cement his position.

When looking to improve his defense, White also turned to an expert: teammate Alex Caruso. Like White, Caruso is an off-ball guard who makes up for any lack of size in defensive mismatches through precise footwork, shifty hands and well-timed challenges.

Since arriving in Chicago, White said Caruso has helped him develop intricacies in his physical defense that go beyond simple positioning.

“You have to learn physicality,” White said. “There’s times to be physical, there’s times not to be physical. When to bump, when to just show hands.”

White, who is averaging a career low in points (8.3) and minutes (21), is still setting goals for this season and beyond. He wants to improve his finishing around the rim along with his 3-point shot and defensive physicality. Those improvements will be steppingstones to his three stated main goals: becoming a starting guard, earning an All-Star distinction and being regarded as an elite guard in the league.

White knows those are far-off aspirations after the up-and-down nature of his first three seasons. But he also believes this season could be another important development as he strives for those ambitions.

“You have this picture in your head of how things are going to go and then when they don’t go that way, you can get down on yourself a lot,” White said. “But I just embrace the journey. I’m human. I have moments. Everybody’s journey is different, and I have a belief in myself, a confidence in myself.”



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