The Chicago Bulls have been through a whole heck of a lot this summer. The team has made it a point to revamp its roster, with the guard trio of Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso, and DeMar DeRozan coming to the Windy City in an attempt to help propel the team to the postseason for the first time since 2017.
One player who will fight for minutes alongside these guys is Coby White, the third-year guard who the team selected with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. White is coming off of a promising second season in Chicago — he averaged 15.1 points and 4.8 assists in 31.2 minutes per game as a sophomore in the league — but between shoulder surgery and the sudden influx of talent at the guard spots on the roster, the former North Carolina standout has a fight for playing time ahead of him.
The good news for White is that he feels he’s in a good place after surgery, and as he told Dime, there’s “great vibes” around the entire team right now. We caught up with White on behalf of the McDonald’s All-American game to talk this summer, watching a pair of people with whom he’s close in the NBA Finals, UNC guys in the NBA, and more.
I know you’re here with the McDonald’s All-American Game. And as an alum of the game, what is it about the McDonald’s All-American Game that makes it so special?
For me, it’s unreal watching the game. You dreamed of doing those things, going to the McDonald’s All-American Game. Most guys who make it to that game make it to the NBA, which is where you want to be, or to have prolific college careers. For me, my main focus was going out and getting to college and getting a free education, and then the NBA came along a lot later. But for me, growing up and watching those games, the high school challenge, guys that you look up to — especially when you’re younger, guys you watch their mixtapes — it was a it was a blessing to be a part of the game be a part of the history.
The game is back in Chicago now. As someone who isn’t from the city but has gotten to know it over your NBA career, what is it that makes Chicago such a great basketball city?
Yeah, honestly, I think it’s a basketball city, but it’s really a sports tow. They’re just like, super competitive and super into sports. And, you know, that’s the main thing. When I first got drafted here, I noticed that up front. They’re super competitive in any sport, they just want to win. Michael Jordan played here. So, to have it in Chicago, such a great city, it’s just dope, man, it’s gonna be a fun experience. I played in 2018. It was in Atlanta, it was cool, but after being in Chicago for, going into my third year, I think being here would be fun.
How’s the shoulder feeling? And just generally, how’s this offseason been for you?
I’ve been productive, man. My surgery, getting better better each and every day. I’m just focusing on the rehab. It’s getting better each and every day. I’m just trying to stay in the moment and just focus on the now, and just focus on getting better today.
I imagine the shoulder might impact this a bit, but where are the areas of your game that you’ve been putting in the most work this offseason?
For sure. I think the big thing is working on my body. I was in the weight room a lot this summer, because I couldn’t do much on the court. Working on my body, I finally get a chance to get strong in areas that I knew I needed to be stronger in — mobility, hip mobility, ankle mobility, balance. I’ve been working on a ton of stuff in the weight room. I think just being off the court and not being able to play is a challenge itself. You appreciate the game that much more. So, this was a humbling experience for me.
It’s been a really busy offseason for the Bulls, especially with adding a bunch of dudes to that backcourt. What have the conversations been like with the coaches about how they view you as fitting into this entire reshaped backcourt?
Right now, man, we’re just trying to figure everything out, everything happened so quickly. We a lot of new players in a short amount of time. So right now, I feel like we just want to figure everybody out. A lot of guys haven’t even stepped on the court together yet. There’s a lot of stuff to be doing as a team just trying to figure it out. I’m excited for this year, man. A lot of good guys, a lot of older, good guys that come from winning. So you know, it’ll be a fun year and exciting year for sure.
Yeah, and what has the general vibe been among you guys? Because you made a bunch of big moves, there’s a real buzz about Chicago playoff basketball, Zach just wins a gold medal. There’s so much positive stuff around the team, and it seems like an exciting time in Chicago.
We’re excited coming into this year, we got some expectations. But like I said, as a unit, as a team, we’re just taking it one day at a time, we’re just trying to be great at each and every day individually and as a team. It’s great vibes going into the facility. Like I said, we made a lot of big moves. It’ll be exciting for me, especially, running with older guys. We got a full year with Vuc, I get a year with DeMar, I get a year with Alex Caruso. Guys that’s already been in the league and came from winning. I’m excited.
Moving the attention away from the Bulls for a second, I want to ask you about a couple of guys who were just in the Finals. First one, Cam Johnson, everyone remembers your reaction when you saw him get drafted, I’m guessing you weren’t surprised by what we saw from him during that playoff run.
Yeah. I was actually talking about Cam the other day, and I was just saying how in college, and even now, I was always in the gym, and every time I was in the gym, Cam was in the gym. I’ve seen all the hard work he put in, and then you know, older guys in college basketball sometimes kind of get a bad rap, the potential part and issues maximizing potential, all of that. I got a year of playing with Cam, and for him, he was a great leader for our team on and off the court. He kind of is a personable guy, he helped me out with a lot of stuff on and off the court when I got to school. So, for me, to see Cam go as high as he did, it wasn’t a surprise to me, just because I knew how much work he put in and how good of a player he really was. I think he’s proven that, that Phoenix did the right thing.
What is it about Cam and how he’s wired that made him so ready to, you know, the Suns make it to the playoffs, Suns make it to the Finals, and he didn’t seem shaken by that at any point.
I mean, honestly, Cam, I think adversity has shaped him. He started off at Pitt, didn’t go as planned, went to Carolina, I think he had some surgeries in between there with his hip, and he had a lot of little nagging injury that he had to deal with. You go through all that in college, I think he went to school five or six years, and it’s like, people start to count you out. So I think Cam does an unbelievable job believing in himself and not let anyone else define who he is. And he’s always prepared for the moment. He treats every game like it’s his last, he’s prepared for every game from the jump. He’s always super focused. And like I said, man, you mix the talent with the hard work, only good can come from that.
The other dude I wanted to ask about was Chris. I know you were in his AAU program and you guys have been close for years. What was it like seeing him finally get to that stage? Because while the Suns didn’t win, Chris played fantastic basketball.
Just knowing CP, I know he’s excited to get there, but I know, he took it as, like, he has to get there again. He wants to finish the job. He’s not too high off that playoff run, or too low. I know he’s like, man, I gotta win, I got to focus on winning. And that’s the biggest thing in his career, he has always been a winner. That’s the first thing that comes to mind when you mention Chris Paul, I just think a winner. He scores a lot, assists, plays hard. He’s one of the most intelligent players in the league. But I just think winning. So, it was dope to see him in that environment, man, and not let injuries, anything — he had a little moment with COVID. And I was just like, man, he can’t catch a break, there’s just always something in the playoffs, but he got past it. And you see how Phoenix, those guys talk so highly of him, his leadership and his qualities as a player, and as a person. I’ve been having that in my corner since I was 16.
I’ve asked Kentucky guys about this. I’ve asked Duke guys about this. I want to ask you, what’s the bond like with UNC guys who are in the league?
Yeah, those guys are cool, but I just feel like Carolina has the biggest family. Kentucky’s cool, Duke is cool, but you don’t see all the different types of players that come back, man. When I was in school, I was playing pickup with Rasheed Wallace. Like, those guys. Raymond Felton, guys that don’t even play in the NBA no more, they come back and give back to us. You play with all those guys and they come back and give. Tyler Hansbrough, dudes like that. Ed Davis spends his summers out there a lot. Danny Green loves going back, everybody goes back and it’s just like, I feel like you don’t see that.
Are there any older UNC due who have been especially good mentors for you over your two years in the league so far?
Vince, especially. VC. Every time I talk to him, every time I played against him, especially with Atlanta, every time I talk to him, we chopped it up. He told me keep your head up and asked how I was doing. Antawn Jamison, I remember we was playing and he was there. And he just came and sat down during my pregame and we talked for, like, 30 minutes about a lot of different stuff. Danny Green, he’s a winner, but he always checks on me every time I play him. It’s like, my first time ever meeting Danny Green was on the court.