The Spurs’ season may have been over for quite a while, but former San Antonio point guard Derrick White is preparing for the biggest series of his basketball life.
The current Boston Celtics reserve guard was traded from San Antonio in February for a package of players and picks. While White’s offensive stats have been nothing special during his time with the Celtics, his perimeter defense has strengthened Boston — and will no doubt be of the utmost importance as his team tries to contend with guards Stephen Curry and Jordan Poole and small forward Klay Thompson in the NBA Finals.
White’s journey to the biggest stage in the NBA was an improbable one. Born in Parker, Colorado — a suburb of Denver — White signed with the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs (UCCS) out of high school as a 6-foot combo guard. Everything changed when he shot up five inches by the time he reached the NCAA Division II school, and he set new program records for most points and assists in a career during his three seasons with UCCS.
White then transferred to the main campus in Boulder and enjoyed a stellar 2016-17 campaign with the Pac 12’s Buffaloes that included first team all-conference honors.
The Spurs, as they’ve done numerous times over the years, identified White’s potential and targeted him with the 29th overall selection of the 2017 NBA Draft. He immediately went to the G League, where he played for the Austin Spurs and quickly earned a reputation as a cool customer and a lethal 3-point shooter.
White saw some time with San Antonio during his rookie year, but was used sparingly as he made the transition to the NBA game. He was expected to be utilized in a reserve role in his second season, but once again an unforeseen circumstance thrust him into the spotlight from relative obscurity.
This time, White’s big break came in the form of a season-ending injury to another fledgling star — Dejounte Murray. When the point guard tore his ACL in the preseason leading up to the 2018-19 season, many Spurs fans wondered aloud who would be able to replace his defensive prowess in addition to running the offense smoothly from the point guard spot.
White was tabbed as the replacement, but his own foot injury sidelined him until November of 2018 against the Miami Heat. Once he entered the lineup, San Antonio’s perimeter defense was noticeably better, while its offense ran more efficiently than before.
White suffered an injury to his other foot in February of 2019, and some pundits wondered if it would derail the Spurs’ playoff hopes. White answered by leading the Spurs into a matchup with his hometown Denver Nuggets, although San Antonio fell in seven games.
White never again found that same rhythm with the Spurs, and general manager Brian Wright swapped him for Josh Richardson, Romeo Langford and a first-round pick in this year’s draft in mid-February.
The move paid instant dividends for Boston, as White’s defense and ability to draw offensive fouls made the Celtics an even more difficult team to score against. Now, the kid from Colorado will look to help one of the NBA’s most storied dynasties capture title No. 18 against a revamped Golden State squad led by former Spur Steve Kerr.
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