While Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Al Horford and Marcus Smart have been the Boston Celtics’ leading men this postseason, Derrick White has emerged as the ultimate lucky guy.
With his potent combination of scoring, playmaking and defensive versatility, White has sparked the Celtics bench, and in Game 1 of the NBA Finals he proved to be one of the catalysts in their fourth-quarter comeback, amassing 21 points to 5 of 8 the 3-point line in their 120-108 victory in San Francisco.
– NBA (@NBA) June 3, 2022
White only joined the team in February after a midseason swap, coincided with the start of the Celtics and is now battling with the Golden State Warriors for the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
Revisit the Deadline deal that helped propel the Celtics to the top of the Eastern Conference.
Celtics-Spurs trade reunion: How Derrick White ended up in Boston
After getting off to a slow start this season, the Celtics began to turn a corner as they made everyone healthy at the close before the All-Star break
Seventh in the Eastern Conference with a record of 32-25 at the time of trade, Boston loomed as a threat in the East, but what followed certainly exceeded their own expectations.
White and Daniel Theis were taken on as of the deadline, while Dennis Schroder, Josh Richardson and Romeo Langford were postponed. Things started to work as they went the rest of the way 18-6 to rise to No. 2 in the East.
2022 Celtics Spurs trade details
- Celtics received: Derrick White
- Get Spurs: Josh Richardson, Romeo Langford, a 2022 first-round draft pick and a 2028 first-round pick swap.
At the time, the Celtics were betting on their current group, sending a first-round draft pick and pick swap along with Josh Richardson and Romeo Langford, but Brad Stevens, president of basketball operations, was confident that White had the missing piece was.
MORE: How a 2013 trade paved the way for Boston’s finals
“That’s the price, right? That’s the part where you lose sleep is the unknown,” Stevens said.
“The selection and then the selection exchange. I mean, the selection swap probably even more so. But I also think that you have no chance of getting the perfect addition with three and a half years left on a really good contract, who your players know, who your coach feels very comfortable with, and you were always a great one as a staff Fan, not just me, that doesn’t happen every day.
“So to be able to be unencumbered beyond this year I think the choice should be a good thing. I think the deal will be judged in 2028, but that’s fine with us. Let’s try to be the best we can be, let’s try to get some guys around our best players who can really make us fly, and let’s have some fun.”
How to Be a Father focused on Derrick White
Much like Fred VanVleet did in 2019, Derrick White discovered his newfound “dad strength” after the birth of his son during the playoffs.
His son Hendrix was born during the 2022 Eastern Conference Finals and White missed Game 2 against the Miami Heat to be with his family.
While he didn’t hit the ground on his return and shot a combined 4-of-16 in Games 3 and 4, he went 6-of-8, 7-of-14 (including four three-pointers) in Game 5 in Game 6 and 2-of-3 from beyond the arc in Game 7.
Then came the NBA Finals.
In Game 1 against the Warriors, White was one of the best players on the floor, registering 21 points and three assists on 5-of-8 from beyond the arc.
“It was just a special feeling,” White said of becoming a father. “I wasn’t there, but also just getting pictures and videos and all that on the plane, it was just special and he’s already changed our lives.”
College and Draft History
White’s journey into the NBA has taken him far and wide, from an undrecruited prospect to the NBA Finals.
At 6 feet and 155 pounds, White was not recruited after high school and sent DVDs of his highlights to around 50 schools, all of which came back with the same reply that he was too short.
The only four-year offer he received was a non-scholarship offer from then-coach Jeff Culver at the NAIA school Johnson & Wales, known more for its culinary arts program than basketball exploits.
After Culver left Johnson & Wales to take the position of head coach at Division II University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, he offered White a $3,000 stipend as a walk-in with the possibility of a full stipend.
White took out a loan for the remainder of his tuition and capitalized on his opportunity by playing three years in Colorado and graduating as the all-time leader in points (1,912) and assists (343) before making the leap to Division I and played for Colorado.
Now 6-foot-5, White had blossomed into an NBA prospect, averaging 18.1 points, 4.4 assists and 4.1 rebounds, and earned All-Pac-12 First Team honors.
He entered the 2017 NBA draft and was selected as the No. 29 overall pick by the San Antonio Spurs, where he played the first four and a half seasons of his NBA career before coming to Boston.
How Team USA served as a precursor to Boston
While White joined Boston in February as the team’s newest member, his familiarity with the current Celtics dates back a few years.
White played for Team USA at the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup in China alongside Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart, and it’s not just his teammates on the court that have helped him settle in so quickly.
Head coach Ime Udoka and assistant Will Hardy previously worked with White when they were part of Gregg Popovich’s coaching staff at San Antonio before moving to Boston.
“Derrick is a guy who has no excuses and just keeps going,” Hardy told The Ringer.
“Our team did that this year. We didn’t apologize. We didn’t point fingers. We didn’t complain and say it wasn’t fair… That was Derrick’s path… He just kept working. … His personality and the personality of our team are very similar.”