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Coby White is learning who he can be in clutch moments. That growth is key for the Chicago Bulls -- even in losses.

Julia Poe, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Basketball

CHICAGO — Minutes after the Chicago Bulls lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers 108-105 on Wednesday, Coby White hunched over a folding table in the visitors locker room, his eyes fixated on the screen of a laptop.

White could wait to take off his jersey or get strapped up with ice. He wanted to review two plays — an overcooked pass that ricocheted through center Nikola Vučević’s hands for a turnover with 17 seconds left and his attempt at a game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer. And in the handful of minutes after the loss, the Bulls coaching staff already had cut up the tape, giving White the chance for a short, impromptu film session.

DeMar DeRozan peered over the guard’s shoulder, offering advice and encouragement. White tapped at the right arrow on the laptop keyboard, taking the play frame-by-frame, jabbing his finger at the screen as he pointed out every minute detail that could have been missed in real time.

After 15 minutes, White had determined exactly what he felt went wrong in the play — and how he could fix it in the future.

“I thought Vooch was going pop to the three, but he made the right play by coming in because I had took on (Evan) Mobley,” White said. “I knew it was going to be hard to finish over him. So I think if I just put the pass on the money, he got a layup or he got one of his little floaters that be automatic. In those moments, I just have to slow down a little bit more and make the right read. My intentions was right. I’ve just got to make the pass, slow down. I was too frantic.”

Putting the ball in White’s hands for the final two game-tying attempts Wednesday was a crucial step for the Bulls. The moment in the locker room after the loss was even more influential. And White’s teammates and the coaching staff understand this: If they hope to grow with White as a core piece, they have to let their young guard take chances, even if it results in a loss.

 

For the last two seasons, the Bulls have had an automatic option in clutch moments: DeRozan. But as the offense shifts to center around both DeRozan and White, the young guard has been shouldering more shots and more risks in clutch moments.

It’s a responsibility White doesn’t take lightly.

“It’s probably the first time in my career I’ve been trusted in those type of moments,” White said. “For me to take steps in the right direction to become the player that I want to become in this league, I need those moments. It’s all part of the learning process. It’s all part of the journey.”

Even as he broke out in his revitalized role as point guard this season, White hasn’t been the go-to guy down the stretch.

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