BOSTON — A year ago, Boston Celtics guard Derrick White was in a new, tough situation after having spent his previous five seasons with the San Antonio Spurs.
White was instantly thrown into the fire, tasked with finding his place on a Celtics team at the center of high expectations and looking to claim Banner 18, which ultimately ended in the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors.
But with a new season, came a newly polished Celtics guard, which head coach Joe Mazzulla has taken notice of throughout White’s second year in Boston.
“I think he’s just more confident, more comfortable, has more of an identity,” Mazzulla said prior to Game 2 against the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday. “I think anytime you join a team late, especially a team that’s been together for a long time with high expectations, you’re trying to figure out how you can make an impact and where you can. So I think stuff like that just comes with time where I feel now he has a clear identity.”
White earned Mazzulla’s trust early, inserted into the starting lineup for 70 game during the regular season while also taking a major jump defensively. The 28-year-old averaged 0.7 steals and 0.9 blocks — second among all point guards in the NBA. White earned so much locker room trust that teammates Al Horford and Grant Williams vouched for him to be named to this year’s All-NBA Defensive team.
“It’s one of those things we can’t get caught up in names and reputations over the years,” Horford said, per NBC Sports Boston video. “Focus on this year. Focus on what he’s done, on the success of our team. He’s a big part of that. There’s no argument
White also contributed offensively, averaging 12.4 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.9 assists while shooting 46.2% from the field in the regular season.
After his 24-point performance in Game 1 against the Atlanta Hawks to begin Boston’s first-round playoff series, and with a noticeable boost in confidence, there’s no question the 2023 new-look C’s will benefit from White’s presence on the floor moving forward and toward an expected deep run to the finals.