Paul's mastery points straight to Bulls' biggest roster issue originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Following Friday’s morning shootaround, Coby White fielded a question about what he has most learned from Chris Paul off the court.
Friday night, the lessons from White’s longtime mentor moved onto the court.
Paul did what he’s been doing for 15-plus seasons in a career that is headed to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, leading the Suns to a 106-97 victory with 14 points, 15 assists and plenty of nuance behind the numbers.
“He just makes the right play. He controlled the game at the end,” White said. “He came in and did what he was supposed to do. He was finding the open man. This is what he’s been doing his whole career.
“Obviously, the way he manipulates actions and the way he manipulates games, he’s just super smart. For me, I’ve been learning from him since I was 15, 16 years old. I’m going to continue to learn from him.”
It’s not like White, who played for Paul’s AAU team in North Carolina, played poorly. He finished with 19 points, five rebounds and four assists while mostly matched up against an opponent he calls “big bro” and “family.”
But even in a season where growth is happening and optimism is bubbling, Paul basically showed exactly what the Bulls’ roster lacks -- a true playmaker who makes everyone around him better.
To make this clearly not an exercise in picking on White, who, even if he’s not a true point guard, has had plenty of positive moments in his first season as a full-time starter. Bulls coach Billy Donovan said Paul’s lessons transcend position.
“I think there’s great teaching points not only for (White) but for our entire team,” said Donovan, who coached Paul with the Oklahoma City Thunder last season. “I think there are some great teaching points for Zach (LaVine). He had been so great this stretch of games making the right play when they trapped him getting off the ball, and he had some plays that I know he wished he would have had back.
“It’s not only (Paul’s) play. It’s just his intelligence, his smarts, his leadership, the way he can orchestrate and move guys around.”
Paul actually committed three of the Suns’ mere seven turnovers on a night the Bulls badly lost that battle. They coughed it up 19 times, leading to 24 Suns’ points. White matched Paul’s turnover total. LaVine posted five.
The Bulls completely melted down in the fourth quarter, committing 10 turnovers and getting outscored 32-16. That’s why players hung in the postgame locker room for a long time dissecting what went wrong, a practice White said occurs frequently.
Donovan said the locker room was “hurting.”
“We kind of got away from our ball movement and started trying to create a little bit more as opposed to just kind of moving the ball and making it go side-to-side before we tried to get downhill,” Thad Young said. “Typically in games, when we're winning those games, we keep the ball moving side-to-side and then we start to go downhill when guys start to get in the trail position, when guys start to get in the lag position. We didn't do that. We just tried to go straight into like screen-and-roll and then just tried to attack through the screen-and-roll position. So, ball movement is huge for us as a team.”
That starts with an orchestrator. One of the best to ever do it graced the United Center court Friday night.