The Boston Celtics built a championship-contending roster at the trade deadline of last season as the team acquired the solid role-playing of Derrick White from the San Antonio Spurs. The six-year veteran was brought in to accommodate the already stout perimeter defense of the Celtics and, of course, handle the duties of a facilitator.
White did just enough for Boston to turn their early struggles around, and it reconciled into a second seed in the Eastern Conference standings. The success went on into the playoffs as the Celtics secured their first NBA Finals appearance since 2010.
White couldn’t have imagined this surge from the Celtics after being acquired, but personal issues and adjustments to the new squad became a mind-racing experience for him, leading to a championship series loss to the Golden State Warriors.
“It was crazy. I mean, from February to June, it felt like I was on the move nonstop,” White tells NBC Sports Boston. “This year, I feel much more settled in and comfortable. Last year was a great experience, and I loved it all. But I’m feeling much more settled in this year.”
Although most of the statistical categories took a slight decline for White, his Celtic tenure can be remembered by the elite shot-making and defending he displayed in Games 5 and 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat. In those games combined, White totaled 35 points off the bench while securing nine rebounds and nine assists.
Just days before that stellar play, White’s wife, Hannah, gave birth to their son Hendrixx which attributed to him spending time away from the team. Of course, the Celtics still found ways to win due to the offensive eruptions from Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. White shared his recognition of the unorthodox duo and how their commitment is a significant aspect of the team’s success.
“From the outside, you see the games, and you’re impressed,” said White on Tatum and Brown. “But it’s all the stuff on the practice court, the things they do after practice — They’re obviously super talented, and their work ethic is a big reason why.”
After the Finals loss, White needed to settle into Boston with his family and team properly. Including the adjustment to fatherhood over the summer, White spent hours in the facility working on his craft as a perimeter shooter, to which interim coach Joe Mazzulla noticed he was shooting far differently as he did in the series against the Warriors.
“I love where he’s at from a confidence standpoint,” said Mazzulla. “I think when he plays with confidence, I think that’s important for all of us to make sure he’s confident because he’s really good for us. When he’s shooting with confidence, I think he’s a threat at all three levels.”
Now comprehensive of his career-changing, White looks to be that x-factor off the bench that the Celtics had wished he would’ve been just four months before. With White’s emerging presence in the gym, he feels the team has gotten much closer, with the taste of revenge lingering on their minds.
“I mean, everybody’s frustrated. Just be so close and not finish it,” said White. “You just want to have another opportunity at that. But you just have to keep getting better and understand the things that you need to work on and work on them. We can’t skip any steps.”