Central Notes: White, LaVine, Holiday, Strus

Coby White is in the midst of a career year and a bounce-back season with the Bulls, averaging 18.5 points in 39 games (all starts) after registering 9.7 PPG across 74 games (two starts) in 2022/23. Head coach Billy Donovan spoke highly of White’s season, suggesting the fifth-year guard is on an All-Star trajectory, according to the Chicago Sun-Times’ Joe Cowley.

I think Coby going forward, if he can continue to stay on this path, he’ll be a guy that will be considered for an All-Star Game,” Donovan said. “I think he’s got that kind of ability. I think the other thing that’s come out is his leadership. He’s got an ability to lead. And I would consider him still moving into his prime.

White, who averaged 22.6 points in December, ranks third on the team in scoring, behind six-time All-Star DeMar DeRozan and two-time All-Star Zach LaVine. The UNC product isn’t just scoring the ball a lot — he’s doing it at an efficient clip, shooting career highs of 44.9% from the field and 40.2% from deep (7.3 attempts). Additionally, he’s second on the team in assists per game (4.9, a career best).

I think what happened early on is that it’s really hard to be a leader when you’re one-dimensional, and he was a one-dimensional player,” Donovan said of White early in his career. “Because he’s become so multidimensional, it’s a lot easier leading. When you’re in there rebounding and you’re defending — I mean, he never took charges. He’s taking charges now.

When you start doing all those things, you have a much bigger voice where you can start holding other players accountable because you’re doing the things yourself and you would expect others to do those along with you. All those things, he can be a great piece for us.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • LaVine recently returned from a 17-game absence and has played three games, all Bulls victories, since his return. After recording 25 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists and three steals in Chicago’s latest win over the Rockets, LaVine spoke about his return to play to reporters. “I’m just happy we’re winning,” LaVine said (Twitter link via The Athletic’s Darnell Mayberry. “I’m going out there giving guys a little boost, hopefully defensively. And offensively, obviously [on] that side of the floor being a weapon people have to worry about.
  • Celtics guard Jrue Holiday is making his return to Fiserv Forum on Thursday where he played in front of Bucks fans as a member of the organization for three seasons. The Bucks won the 2021 title with Holiday and fans showed him love with an ovation on Thursday (Twitter link via The Athletic’s Eric Nehm). However, Holiday was all business when asked about the topic before traveling there. “So to be able to go back to Milwaukee should be fun,” Holiday said via The Athletic’s Jay King (Twitter link). “I was there for three years and we did great things there but I’m on to better things.
  • Cavaliers forward Max Strus left Cleveland’s Thursday game against the Nets in the first quarter and did not return with what the team said was right knee soreness, according to The Athletic’s Joe Vardon (Twitter link). The Cavaliers don’t play again until Monday, so it’s possible Strus is good to go for that game. Sam Merrill started the second half in place of Strus on Thursday and finished with six points and nine rebounds in 32 minutes.
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