White's focus is on team after not agreeing to extension


Monday's preseason deadline for rookie-scale players to agree on extensions with their respective teams passed without a pact between the Chicago Bulls and Coby White.

It was an unsurprising development to outside observers, given the up-and-down nature of White's first three NBA seasons and the team's crowded backcourt.

And, in fact, even those closest to the situation weren't shocked.

"No, no. I didn't," White said after the Bulls' Tuesday practice when asked if he thought there was a chance of agreeing on an extension before the deadline. "I wasn't really focused on that. Just play this year out. I put in a lot of work this summer, so let my work show, and take it from there.

"Like I've been saying, I'm just here to help my team win. Whatever I can do to help my teammates become better versions of themselves and a better version of the team, I'm willing to do that."

That is White, to borrow a cliché, saying all the right things in the face of questioning that would make anyone uncomfortable. That trend continued throughout his roughly six-minute session with reporters.

Asked if entering the final year of his contract without a long-term agreement in hand concerns him at all, White, with a smile, called himself a "carefree guy."

"I just take everything as it comes and I just go with the flow," he said. "I put in a lot of work this summer and I'm gonna trust my work."

How about entering restricted free agency next summer? Is this season an opportunity to showcase his skills to the Bulls and other potentially interested teams?

"I look at everything in life as opportunity," White said. "For me, it's just to go out there and play my game and help my team win. And when my number is called just be ready and whenever I get an opportunity just be ready. That's how I would look at it."

But is there any added motivation baked into his contract situation?

"Nah, I love playing basketball. That's all the motivation I need," he said. "I love playing, I love hooping. I've had motivation my whole life. I ain't gonna change nothing now."

Perhaps "change" isn't the right word, but White will have to make improvements in his fourth season to fortify his future, whether it be in Chicago or elsewhere. He acknowledged as much, saying he is looking forward to showcasing the offseason work he poured into shooting off the dribble and defending.

"Taking another step on the defensive end is big for me," he said. "A lot of people know I can score and put the ball in the basket, so for me it's just taking that next step defensively.

"That's what I've been focused on. I focused on it in the summer, I've been focused on it during training camp. So I think I've been doing a pretty job just continuing to build off this training camp and carry it over to the regular season."

Again: All the right things.

The good news is White has improved in each of his three professional seasons, even amid at times adverse circumstances. In 2021-22, he set career-highs in overall field-goal percentage (43.3), 3-point percentage (38.5) and field-goal percentage inside of three feet (66.1) while averaging 12.7 points and 2.9 assists — against just 1.1 turnover — in a constantly fluctuating role. After a disjointed start to the season that was delayed by rehabbing a torn labrum suffered in the offseason, he was one of the Bulls' most durable presences and their third-most reliable outside shooter behind Zach LaVine and Lonzo Ball, who is sidelined indefinitely to begin 2022-23.

But consistency has always been the key for White — in his decision-making, shot-making, and, as he noted, defending. So will carving out a consistent role in a log-jammed guard room, although head coach Billy Donovan has never been shy about playing guard-heavy lineups and the team, which finished 2021-22 last in the NBA in 3-point attempts, can use his marksmanship.

"We love Coby," Donovan said. "I think he can play a role and help us on our team.

"For Coby, (the expectation is) being multi-dimensional on offense. He doesn't have to always be a point guard. There are things to his game that in any kind of system or offense he can get into the game. He's a terrific shooter. He's a scorer. He can get downhill. He can pass. He can do a lot of good things. Sometimes playing off ball is good for him. Sometimes him being on the ball is good as well.

"I think he's made a really concerted effort, defensively, to get better. Guarding the ball, in terms of defending pick-and-roll. But I think every area, the more he has spent time in the NBA, his offseason workout has been more geared toward what he's experienced and what he knows he has to get better at."

From White's perspective, it's full steam ahead into an important year for him and his team, which is hoping to build on last season's 46 regular season wins and first-round playoff exit. It all begins Wednesday in Miami against the reigning Eastern Conference No. 1 seed Heat.

"I'm just here to do my job. I love being here, I love my teammates. I'm excited for the season," White said. "It should be a good one for us. We put in a lot of work, so we're hoping it will pay off.

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