NBA Finals 2022: The Celtics have found a hero in Derrick White

By Melissa Rohlin
FOX Sports Writer NBA

Steph Curry lost sleep after game 1 of the NBA Finals. Draymond Green took to Twitter to “shut up” anyone who said, “Draymond, you suck.” Klay Thompson called the Warriors implosion a “stark reminder” that they had become too comfortable.

A big reason the Warriors superstars were in shock?

Derrick White torched them for 21 points to help lead the Celtics to a 120-108 victory, outscoring all Warriors except Curry.

Celtics stun Warriors to steal Game 1

Celtics stun Warriors to steal Game 1

The Boston Celtics made history last night as Boston defeated the Golden State Warriors 120-108 in Game 1. The Celtics became the first team in NBA Finals history to win by double digits after entering the fourth quarter in double digits.

For White, who had an unlikely path to the NBA, it was all a bit surreal.

“That’s what you work for,” White told FOX Sports. “This is the moment everyone dreams of.”

White’s phone buzzed nonstop after Thursday’s game.

In his first-ever NBA Finals appearance, he shot 6-for-11 from the field, including 5-for-8 on 3-pointers. He was a containment advocate. And he finished with the highest plus-minus (+25) of any player on the court.

“I got a bunch of texts from ex-teammates, ex-coaches,” White said with a smile.

For anyone who knows White, it’s hard not to be overjoyed for the 6-foot-4, 190-pound shooter who has fought his way through the league.

White didn’t have a single scholarship offer from a four-year college graduating from Legend High in Parker, Colorado in 2012. He was barely 6 feet tall until his senior year. And even though he averaged 17.1 points in his final season, few believed he could thrive at the next level.

After his incredible performance in Game 1, which he described as the highlight of his career, White stood in a dimly lit hallway and discussed when he really thought he should step away from basketball. -ball.

“When I was in high school, I had no offers,” White told FOX Sports. “I thought I wouldn’t play basketball at the college level, I’d just be a regular student. That was probably the lowest point. But I love basketball, I just kept working and good things happened. started happening for me.”

White ended up receiving a no-scholarship offer from Johnson & Wales, an NAIA school well-known for producing big-name chefs, not future NBA players.

But then things took an unexpected turn.

As the deadline approached for White to make a decision, the coach who recruited White, Jeff Culver, ended up getting a head coaching offer at the University of Colorado Division II in Colorado Springs. . Culver then offered White a $3,000 room and board allowance, possibly changing his path.

During his three seasons there, White made a name for himself as a prolific goalscorer, skilled playmaker and brave defender. Her transformed body. He grew up. He became a star.

In a game in 2014, he finished with 50 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists. He then led his team to the 2015 NCAA D-II Men’s Basketball Tournament and was named a Division II All-American in 2014 and 2015.

In 2015, White gained enough weight to transfer to the University of Colorado, where he averaged 18.1 points, 4.4 assists and 1.2 steals in 2016-17. It was enough to catch the attention of NBA scouts across the country.

The San Antonio Spurs selected White as the 29th overall pick in the 2017 draft. He spent 4½ seasons at San Antonio before the Celtics acquired him at the trade deadline in February.

Now White isn’t just playing on one of the biggest sporting stages, he’s thriving there.

“We love Derrick,” Al Horford said after Thursday’s win. “What he brought to our group, just his energy, his commitment to hard work. He continues to work no matter how it goes for him individually. He continues to prepare.”

It all paid off for White.

He was key in pushing the Celtics past the Miami Heat in seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals, scoring at least 13 points in three games, including a 22-point performance in Game 6.

None of this comes as a surprise to Spurs manager Gregg Popovich.

Popovich always believed in White’s potential. He invited him to play for Team USA at the FIBA ​​World Cup in 2019 after many superstars refused to participate.

And when the Celtics advanced to the Finals, Popovich texted White. He congratulated him and wrote a sentence that has resonated with White ever since.

“I was made for this,” White told FOX Sports.

Celtics point guard Marcus Smart also saw something special in white when they were teammates at the 2019 World Cup.

But he laughed as he remembered the first time they had met back then. At the time, White wasn’t sure anyone knew who he was.

“The first thing Derrick said was, ‘My name is Derrick,'” Smart recalled with a laugh.

When White was traded to the Celtics, Smart was thrilled to play alongside him. He knew firsthand that White never backed down. He had witnessed White’s deep understanding of the game.

But for White, being traded mid-season wasn’t easy.

“It took a while to even know the games,” White told FOX Sports. “It was kind of weird, they were calling a play and I was looking around, like, ‘Where should I be?'”

White felt lost at first. The Celtics’ core of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Smart had been playing together since 2017. It took him a while to really feel like he belonged.

But his teammates eased the transition.

“Everyone was like, ‘Just be you. We brought you here because we love what you do,'” White said. “So that made it a lot easier.”

Clearly White no longer feels like an underdog.

On Thursday, he was a big reason the Celtics were able to come back strong from a 15-point fourth-quarter deficit. He had two key 3-pointers as his team beat the Warriors 40-16 in the final 12 minutes.

White is no longer uncertain. He is no longer hesitant. He was absolutely not afraid of the newest dynasty in the league.

In front of millions, he took on the three-time champions, playing incredibly smart defense on one side of the pitch, then lighting them up on the other.

That’s mind-boggling growth for someone who thought he was done with basketball just 10 years ago.

Instead, it has the NBA’s best players scratching their heads.

It is certain: Derrick White does not have to present himself any more.

Now the whole world knows his name.

Melissa Rohlin is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. She previously covered the league for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Times, the Bay Area News Group and the San Antonio Express-News. Follow her on Twitter @melissarohlin.

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