Bulls guard Coby White said he doesn’t know whether he would have had the backbone last season to do what he did Oct. 27 against the Raptors.
He probably would have, but it was definitely a gut-check for White in his role as an emerging leader.
With a handful of seconds left in regulation and the Raptors inbounding the ball, White noticed that coach Billy Donovan had put guard Zach LaVine on Raptors guard Dennis Schroder.
It wasn’t that he didn’t agree with Donovan or believe in LaVine’s defense. As he put it, ‘‘I just wanted Schroder.’’
‘‘I had a pretty good feeling [Schroder] was going to be in the play kind of based on what they were doing and the film study I did, and I had been guarding him all game,’’ White said. ‘‘I wanted to be a part of that stop.’’
White didn’t just grab LaVine in making the switch, he all but shoved him off Schroder and in the direction of his assignment.
‘‘It worked,’’ a laughing White recalled of the Bulls’ eventual overtime victory.
The same can be said of White so far this season.
With a huge vacancy at point guard with Lonzo Ball (left knee) again out for the entire season, the Bulls re-signed White as a restricted free agent during the offseason and all but handed him the keys to the car. Sure, they added Jevon Carter in free agency and went into training camp calling it an open competition, but all indications were that it was White’s job to lose.
He didn’t lose it. If anything, he not only has shown he can be the Bulls’ starting point guard but also an on-the-court general who isn’t afraid to use his voice.
‘‘I think Coby has been good in that department,’’ Donovan said. ‘‘He can say things to teammates and it’s not taken the wrong way because they know where his heart is at. It comes from a good place.’’
That doesn’t mean it always sounds that way.
White can come off prickly on the court at times, and it doesn’t matter whether he’s talking to a veteran such as DeMar DeRozan or ‘‘moving’’ a teammate such as LaVine.
‘‘I can probably sometimes come across as a [bleep]head,’’ White said. ‘‘And I’m fine with that because I want to win games at the end of the day. But all these guys know me personally. I take the time to get to know everyone in this locker room as well as I can. Relationships, friendships, those things mean a lot to me. They know if I say something a certain way, it’s out of a place of love, wanting to win.’’
Wanting to win hasn’t necessarily translated into victories, however, and that has been frustrating for White. The Bulls have made some tweaks to their offense this season, and White takes the growing pains personally, even though he has the best plus-minus (minus-13) among the starting five.
‘‘The new offense has been a little bit of work, but we’re committed to it,’’ White said. ‘‘Billy has been hard on us about playing the right way and doing the right things on the floor, and communication is a huge part of that.’’
That’s where White comes in. The Bulls showed they are committed to him with the contract, and he wants to show them he is committed to making this group work.
‘‘Whenever I speak, I feel like the vets listen,’’ White said. ‘‘Sometimes it might not be what they want to hear, and I can tell by their facial expression that it’s something they might not want to hear. But they’ve never outright told me to shut up or [bleep] off, nothing like that. They want to win, too.
‘‘If I see something, I have no problem saying it.’’