Derrick White spoke with J.J. Redick about his unconventional path to the NBA, his time with San Antonio, getting traded to Boston, and his thoughts about this year’s team.
White is the third member of the Celtics to appear on “The Old Man & The Three,” as Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart did so last year. The interview was recorded before Wednesday night’s drubbing of Phoenix.
If one thing stood out from this conversation, it’s that Derrick White had an improbable journey to the league. He was 6 feet and 150 pounds his senior year of high school. Forget Division I — he barely got any DII offers. The Rhode Island culinary school Johnson & Wales (which I didn’t realize had a basketball team) was the only school that recruited him, and when the coach, Jeff Culver, took a job at UC Colorado Springs, he offered White a non-scholarship spot on the team.
After growing to 6’4” and averaging 26 points his junior year, White transferred to UC-Boulder and got drafted 29th to the San Antonio Spurs in 2017. He never thought he’d make the NBA, but talked about how he got encouragement and gained confidence after meeting Jamal Crawford and playing pickup games with him at a Chauncey Billups basketball camp.
After spending most of his rookie year in the G-League, White started 55 games in his second season. At times he struggled with confidence, but Gregg Popovich would tell him, “you belong here.” In the playoffs against the Nuggets, he scored 36 points in Game 3, which White described as a surreal feeling returning home and putting on a show in front of family and friends.
He said he didn’t expect to get traded to Boston, and but when the Spurs and Celtics played a month earlier, White thought he might be a good fit with the team. He said guarding Steph Curry in The Finals made him a better player, and discussed the mental strain of defending him, specifically using the word “paranoia.”
This season, Derrick White is shooting a career high 42 percent from three on 4.2 attempts per game. He talked about his slightly altered shooting form, how he’s releasing the ball with more arc and trying to avoid leaning back on every jumper. He spoke about the culture of trust on this team.
“If you make the right play, the next person will make the right play, and you’re gonna end it benefiting from it,” White told Redick.
Other topics of discussion: Smart always wears a robe, has custom-fitted robes, and will sometimes wear rain boots when it’s not raining. White was most excited when talking about Colorado’s recent hire of Deion Sanders. Lastly, Redick said that after the Ime Udoka suspension, he went golfing with Joe Mazzulla and discussed the possibility joining the Celtics coaching staff.