CHICAGO — With a winter storm watch underway Tuesday night, Oklahoma City floor general Chris Paul dressed quickly after leading the Thunder past the Chicago Bulls 124-122 to escape with their ninth consecutive road win.
“I’ve gotta see my family,” Paul said, strolling out of the United Center visitors locker room into the family area to connect with his mentee, Bulls rookie Coby White, and White’s mother, Bonita, and brother, Will.
White scored a career-best 35 points against Oklahoma City. But Paul, who is White’s former AAU coach and a fellow North Carolina native, came up big down the stretch and tallied 19 points and nine assists on the night.
White also became the first rookie — and third different player overall — to score 30 points in three straight games off the bench since starters were first recorded in 1970-71, according to Elias Sports Bureau research.
“It’s still surreal for me to see Coby and Wendell [Carter Jr.] after having the opportunity to coach them in my AAU program,” Paul said. “I’m happy for him, and I told Coby he wasn’t going to score 33 tonight, but he scored 35, which I didn’t know until he told me at the end of the game.”
“I told him he only had like six or something on me, though,” Paul continued. “I watch him play just about every time we don’t play, so I’m happy to see him doing well.”
Zach LaVine also went off for a game-high 41 points as he and White became the first duo this season to score 35 points each in a loss. Paul defended LaVine on his final 3-point attempt that didn’t fall and said he tried to make it as hard as possible for LaVine.
“I may not be able to guard him all game long, but down the stretch, I always want the opportunity to guard them guys,” Paul said.
White considers his relationship with Paul to be bigger than basketball. Paul was there to comfort him after his father, Donald, died of liver cancer in August 2017, and Paul has helped White in many ways throughout his young career.
Despite White’s hot streak in a reserve role, Bulls coach Jim Boylen reiterated that he has no intentions of using him as a starter for now. Boylen wants to “keep him in a good place.”
Witnessing White’s scoring ability wasn’t surprising to Paul, either, but Paul will help him work on other areas in the offseason.
“That’s what he do. He shoots lights-out,” Paul said of White. “I’m glad to see him playing with that confidence and all that. In the summer, we’ll get in the gym, and we’ll go to work.”
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