Derrick White has been exactly what the Boston Celtics needed during the 2021-22 season. Since he was acquired on February 10, 2022, the team has gone 33-13 and are competing in the 2022 NBA Finals. However, in an interview with Mirin Fader of The Ringer, White admitted that he was initially taken aback when he found out that his previous team, the San Antonio Spurs, had traded him.
“I was shocked,” White says. In a few seconds, his life suddenly looked completely different.
Where am I going to live? he thought. And there were more serious concerns. Hannah was around 30 weeks pregnant. They’d have to find new doctors. And then a tiny seed of doubt, one he had been trying to suppress throughout his career, surfaced:
Why didn’t they want me?
He’d loved his time in San Antonio. He loved Pop. “It was a world of emotions,” White says.
What helped White fit in as well as he has is because he had worked with both Celtics players and personnel before joining the team. White had played with Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart on Team USA’s NBA World Cup Roster in the summer of 2019. Head Coach Ime Udoka and Assistant Will Hardy had also previously worked with White when they were in San Antonio before coming to Boston. Hardy went on to praise White’s mindset as a player while adding that it’s helped him fit with the team.
“Derrick is a no-excuses, just-keep-going kind of guy,” Hardy told Fader. “That’s what our team’s done this year. We haven’t made excuses. We haven’t pointed a finger. We haven’t complained and said that this isn’t fair… That’s exactly how Derrick’s journey has been… He’s just kept working. … His personality and the personality of our team are very similar.”
Brad Stevens Praises White’s Fit With Tatum and Brown
Boston’s mindset at the 2022 NBA Trade Deadline was to surround Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown with players that fit next to them. In Brad Stevens’ mind, White fit the profile.
“How could we surround them with the best versatile defenders, the best savvy passers, and the most unselfish guys we could find?” Stevens told Fader. “Derrick, in basketball circles, is really, really, really highly thought of in all of those regards. We had seen that up close… Imagine the best teammate, the guy who will do anything to win, the guy who doesn’t care if he gets his name in the paper, the guy who doesn’t care if he ever shoots a shot… He’s all about the right stuff.”
Fader’s feature also acknowledged that White has had the tendency of being a little too unselfish since joining the Celtics, as his teammates have encouraged him to score when he has the ball in his hands.
There are moments when Tatum gets on White for passing up shots. For being too unselfish. “Stop looking for me,” Tatum has told him. “Go score.”
Tatum, Brown, Smart, and Al Horford often tell him: “Go for it.”
Isaiah Thomas Praised White For NBA Journey
Derrick White had to work from the ground up to get to where he is. He didn’t get any NCAA Division 1 scholarship offers coming out of high school. He played NCAA Division 2 Basketball for three years before transferring to the University of Colorado to play NCAA Division 1 Basketball. He played his way into becoming the 29th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, but most players chosen late in the first round don’t make it in the NBA. White has not only made it, but now he’s playing in Boston’s rotation in the 2022 NBA Finals.
If there’s one player who can identify with White’s journey, it’s former Celtic Isaiah Thomas. After Boston defeated the Miami Heat to advance to the NBA Finals, Thomas praised White for continuing “the grind” to get to where he is now as a player on June 2.
Thomas has had a similar journey as a player, going from the 60th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft to a two-time NBA All-Star. He and White haven’t had the exact same journey, but both took a long journey to accomplish as much as they have.