Chicago Bulls

Bulls' Nikola Vučević, Coby White excited to justify new contracts

Management re-signed veteran center, guard in offseason centered on keeping core intact

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Yes, there’s the money---$60 million to be exact. And the security of three seasons in a city where his family is comfortable doesn’t hurt either.

But ask Nikola Vučević for his feelings about re-signing with the Chicago Bulls before even hitting unrestricted free agency, and his first answer is about on-the-court matters.

“I felt like there was a lot of work undone,” Vučević said Monday at Bulls media day at the Advocate Center. “I felt like this team had a lot more to show and improve on. So it was a lot of stuff I discussed with a lot of guys around the team when I was making my decision.

“I don’t know if we’ll get to it. But I felt like we had to give it another shot. I just felt like we didn’t show our best and we all still have a little bit of that chip on the shoulder to have a better season, play better as a team and that was a big part of my decision.

“Chicago traded for me. They brought me here. They gave up a lot for me. And so I felt a responsibility to come back and help the team do better than we did. I don’t know what that will be in the end. But that’s just kind of how I felt.

“Obviously, I felt very comfortable here with the front office, the coaching staff and especially my teammates. A lot of guys, I’ve become very close with. And I just felt right.”

As for Coby White, his three-year, $36 million deal, which has a chance to be worth $40 million if incentives are hit, carried significance beyond the court.

White and Zach LaVine represent the only two players remaining on the Bulls who were inherited by the current managerial regime. In 2022, management showed its faith in Zach LaVine by signing him to a maximum contract extension.

This offseason, management reached a verbal agreement with White on the opening night of free agency.

"Obviously, it's life-changing money,” White said. “It's a blessing that I get to sign my second contract. Not a lot of guys get to say that in this league. Especially signing with the team that I started with, with everything this organization has went through.

“With all the changes, I'm still here, the team I got drafted to. When I sat back and actually thought about it and it sunk in, it was a crazy feeling. To look back on all the years and all the changes that's been made, I'm still here. I'm just excited to be back. Me and Zach, he's been with me every step of the way of my career, so I'm excited to be back with him too.”

Now that the business of basketball is over, White and Vučević are focused on what they can do to help the Bulls improve off last season’s disappointing 40-42 season.

The Bulls have talked about utilizing Vučević’s passing ability more this season, using him as a hub for varied offensive looks centered on player movement in the halfcourt sets. Vučević played 82 games for the first time in his 12-year career last season, shooting 34.9 percent from 3-point range as well.

“I’m most efficient, most comfortable inside and playing closer to the basket. But when there are opportunities for me to step out and shoot it, it can help our team out in a lot of different ways,” Vučević said. “Whether that’s me shooting the 3 or if I do make one or two of the bigs start closing out to me more aggressively and it opens opportunities for me to drive. Or if I get them out of the paint, it opens up opportunities for others to drive.

“So for me specifically it’s just about finding that right balance and not being outside too much and not being inside too much where I’m clogging the paint for everybody.”

White said his offseason focused on overall improvement, with an emphasis on shooting off the dribble. He is in the mix to start at point guard along with Ayo Dosunmu and Jevon Carter.

“I just want to grow and continue to get better. The biggest thing is to just be more consistent. Play the same way day in and day out,” White said. “Obviously you're going to have bad nights here and there. Try to eliminate all the bad nights, especially the consecutive bad nights.

“In my career, I've been labeled as an up-and-down player. And to a certain extent, that's kind of true. Some nights you don't know which Coby you're going to get. So for me, I just want to be more consistent. And that started this summer with the mental approach."

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