Another year of maturity was key for Bulls guard Coby White to feel like he no longer was sitting at the kids’ table.
Then again, getting the bump to a much higher tax bracket this offseason didn’t hurt, either.
“You can tell [White is] just more confident with what he’s doing,’’ center Nikola Vucevic said. “He did sign a new deal, so that always helps, as well. But playing point guard is a very difficult position in the NBA, so at a young age, it’s not always easy to figure out. Coby has taken huge steps in doing that, in figuring it out.’’
But the real test for White is still to come.
He flashed a louder voice in the preseason when talking to teammates as the on-the-court general, but how will Vucevic, Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan respond in the fire of the midseason when White points out bad spacing or help that was supposed to come?
Coach Billy Donovan wasn’t the least bit worried.
“I do think his voice started last year in the second half,’’ Donovan said Wednesday. “I feel good about his voice, and I feel his voice is respected inside of our team. I’ve encouraged him to continue to use that because it’s been pretty well documented that at times we can be pretty quiet.’’
And Donovan knows all about vocal point guards.
He had Russell Westbrook, then Chris Paul when he coached the Thunder, and when he came to the Bulls, he immediately saw that Lonzo Ball could be firm in letting teammates know where they needed to be.
White has gained confidence in that area, and it’s being welcomed by the veterans.
“I always say that for each individual player, there’s 30 eyeballs on every guy, looking at him, judging him,’’ Donovan said. “Coby plays the game with zero intention in terms of selfishness or about himself, so I think that when he does speak, it is genuinely coming from a good place. That’s the respect. The guys have seen that he’s not a finger-pointer, he’s not a blamer. Everything he tries to do is for the team.’’
There’s no minutes restriction on Alex Caruso to start the regular season, but the Bulls will take a similar approach to last season with the defensive-minded guard: They’ll protect Caruso from himself.
It’s a minutes watch more than a restriction to make sure Caruso is up and running late in the season and hopefully into a playoff push. He played 20 minutes in the 124-104 loss Wednesday.
“When he gets up into the high 20s, low 30s [minutes played] on a consistent nightly basis, there could be some issues, so I think we’ll always monitor that,’’ Donovan said. “At the end of the year, you want to have kept him in that mid-20 area just to protect him, have him available for games.’’
The other unicorn
Thunder big man Chet Holmgren, who missed all of last season with a Lisfranc injury in his right foot, scored 11 points in 25 minutes in his NBA debut against the Bulls. He was an immediate presence at 7-1 despite his skinny frame.
Holmgren is considered to have the second-best odds to win Rookie of the Year behind Spurs phenom Victor Wembanyama. Thunder coach Mark Daigneault already was loving what he was seeing.
“Great fearlessness,’’ Daigneault said. “He’s willing to put his body in plays despite his frame — and despite what just happened on the last play. He’s willing to thrust himself into competition, risk failure.’’