Coby White's development one of many NBA storylines put on hold by hiatus


“From North Carolina . . .”

The public address announcer’s words hung in the air, rife with anticipation, much like one of Michael Jordan’s assaults on the rim back in the day.

Even if a certain “slow your roll” component accompanied any Coby White comparisons to His Airness as White made his first NBA start Tuesday, it still felt fun to hear those words again.

“At guard . . .”

Sellout crowds used to drown out the rest of Jordan’s starting lineup introduction as the dynasty raged. Now, White’s moment in the spotlight will be muted by a much more serious and somber moment — the suspension of the NBA season due to the COVID-19 virus.

It’s hard to overstate how much White’s season moved from “feast or famine” category to consistently impactful. But it happened.

Five times in White’s first 56 games, he scored 20 points or more. He did so eight times in his last nine games before the start of the league’s hiatus, including that first start against the Cavaliers.

His three straight 30-point games late last month marked the first time in league history a rookie reserve accomplished that.

Beyond scoring, White’s assist numbers jumped from 1.9 per game in January to 4.1 in February to six in the five games played in March. His defense, particularly on the ball, stood out as marked improvement.

And now, like the rest of the league, it’s on hold.

White is an even-keeled worker whose maturity belies his tender age of 20. Coach Jim Boylen has raved about his film study habits. He consistently works out with his older brother, Will, who lives with him.

These are the qualities that have allowed him to move past a summer league in which he admittedly felt overwhelmed at times and a 'rookie-wall-striking' stretch in December and January in which he shot an abysmal percentage. They allowed him to remain poised as his role increased, culminating in the excitement surrounding his first start.

But nothing replicates game experience. Particularly since White’s court awareness and point guard skills, while showing improvement, need reps. Exhibit A: His nine turnovers in the Cavaliers game.

Zach LaVine, who has consistently and perhaps most passionately raved about White’s talents, stood poised to return from his strained quad when the league took its hiatus. In his last media session with reporters before Tuesday’s game, LaVine talked longingly about his excitement to play with White.

“I think we can be a dynamic duo,” LaVine said.

This isn’t a woe-is-the-Bulls’ stance. Every NBA has its own set of storylines that are impacted by this unprecedented situation. And White’s halted development, obviously, pales in comparison to a global health crisis.

The hope is that teams eventually will be allowed to practice in the group settings that are currently prohibited as commissioner Adam Silver, working with team owners and the players association, navigates this uncharted territory.

When will White and the Bulls return to game action? Nobody knows. But what's almost certain is that when that day comes, White will be hearing the same words fans hungry for action will be hearing.

“From North Carolina . . .”

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.

Contact Us