Bulls need Coby White to refind his game and do it sooner than later

NEW YORK – Coby White has hit the wall.

Or maybe the wall has hit him.

At this point in the Bulls season, it really doesn’t matter who initiated the collision. What matters is that White can lift himself up, find an extra gear, and get back to being a special player over the final eight regular season games.

That’s the test that now sits in front of the former first-round pick out of North Carolina. One that his organization believes he will pass.

“He’s never really been a complainer or a guy that makes excuses, and that’s the one thing I admire and respect a great deal out of him,” coach Billy Donovan said of White’s current rut. “I do think for Coby as we come to the end of the year, this has been really great for him and his growth this year in my opinion because he’s starting to see what it’s like to be an elevated elite, elite player in this league, and the thing it comes down to is the guy’s consistency in terms of his position putting the ball in the basket.”

“Just knowing him and the competitor he is, the fighter he is, it’s not going to (keep going) like this.”

The Bulls better hope not.

A right hip injury cost White three games earlier in March, but his actual decline was showing after the All-Star break. Call it fatigue with the heavy minutes he was playing for the first time in his NBA career or the league simply game-planning for him with more detail – maybe both – but it was felt.

Going into the break he was shooting 46.3% from the field and 39.7% from three-point range, including an eye-opening December and January in which White was good for 22 points per game, 48% from the field and just under 40% from three.

In his 16 games since the break White was shooting 38.3% from the field and 32.8% from three.

It hasn’t been just his scoring, either. When White has it going and is in a rhythm, he lifts the team and keeps defenses on its heels with his ability to drive-and-kick. In Bulls wins this season, White averages 6.2 assists, and in losses it drops to 4.5 per game.

White has been asked about the recent rut frequently and is likely getting tired of the same questions, but he’s also finding out that star power carries more weight – including the responsibility of dealing with the media.

“(Bleep), I don’t know. Just trying to impact it anyway I can, not try and force it, so, yeah,” White said of his performance in the loss to Brooklyn on Friday. “I’m just not making the shots I normally make right now.”

That’s about to change, according to veteran teammate DeMar DeRozan, however.

“He’s going to be fine,” DeRozan said of White. “It sucks him going down with an injury. Stuff like that can knock your rhythm off. Playing through stuff you got to get back comfortable, get the feeling back. It’s going to come, and it’s going to come when we need it the most, and we’re going to ride that wave.”

They need to ride something.

The Bulls are gripping that No. 9 spot for a home play-in opportunity in the first game, but the Hawks have been winning and breathing down necks.

Fatigue, rhythm, game plans, all of it needs to be tossed aside at this point.

“Nah, we can’t have none of that,” DeRozan added. “Down to eight games and with that we’re going to have to continue to fight for our lives, so that’s going to be even more exhausting. You gotta dig deep and know how bad we want it. Exhaustion ain’t any excuse right now.”

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