CHICAGO — Bulls coach Jim Boylen decided to switch things up with Tuesday night’s lineup, giving Coby White his first start at point guard in place of Tomas Satoransky. The 20-year-old rookie responded by helping the Bulls defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers 108-103.
Boylen made the decision after first meeting with Satoransky on Monday morning ahead of practice, before he met with White.
The Bulls entered Tuesday’s game riding a three-game losing streak, and they were 2-13 their previous 15 games overall while battling a string of injuries, including one to star player Zach LaVine (left quad strain).
White finished with a team-high 20 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds on 7-for-17 shooting in 38 minutes. He also had nine turnovers and said he knows he still has work to do.
“It was some little tweaks here and there with my first start. I had the ball in my hands a lot tonight,” White said. “It’s unacceptable as a point guard [to turn the ball over], but at the end of the day we got the win, so I’ve just got to keep working on it.”
Since the All-Star break, White ranks second among rookies in points (24.7) and fourth in assists per game (4.3). He has also made five or more assists in five consecutive games, which is the longest streak for a Bulls rookie since Derrick Rose did it in 11 straight in 2009.
Although White and Satoransky didn’t have an in-depth conversation about the lineup change, they both said they understood why the decision was made.
“It was logical with the way I’ve been playing since All-Star break and the way Coby’s been playing,” Satoransky said after scoring five points with eight rebounds and five assists off the bench. “I think it’s just a logical step, and you just have to respect that sometimes it happens to you as a player. I’m just happy for him for helping us win the game. He’s been balling out, so he deserves a chance.”
Added White: “We have a good relationship. Nothing really had to be said. We have a strong enough relationship to move past it and keep doing what he’s doing. At the end of the day, me and him both just want to win games, and Sato handled it like a professional. He handled it like a grown man, and hats off to him. I can’t thank him enough for the way he’s handled it because a lot of people would’ve handled it differently.”
Following Tuesday’s victory, Chicago’s locker room was closed in response to the coronavirus crisis. In the middle of White’s postgame news conference in the United Center Press Lounge, his face lit up as he paused for a second to laugh.
It was his agent, Ty Sullivan of CAA Sports, who had flown in unannounced to catch his client’s first start.
“What you doing here, bro?” White said as he smiled and greeted Sullivan with his brother, Will, in the back of the room once he wrapped up his media obligations.
Not a bad night for the 20-year-old.