For Boston Celtics guard Derrick White, his time in San Antonio with the Spurs laid an important foundation for his career.

White spent his first five seasons with the Spurs before heading to the Celtics in a midseason trade during the 2021-22 campaign. The young guard grew into a starting role and a consistent contributor in San Antonio.

Years after the trade, his former legendary coach Gregg Popovich has enjoyed the evolution of White’s “great story” of his NBA rise.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the player,” Popovich told reporters before the game, per NBC Sports Boston. “When he first came, I don’t think he believed he belonged in the NBA. To watch him develop through the years, starting in the G-League with us, then starting for us. Taking more steps in Boston has been a thrill to watch.”

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In the midst of a major elevation in production with the Celtics, White never forgets the impact Popovich had in raising his confidence and validating his sense of belonging in the NBA.

“He just kept pushing me,” White told reporters on Sunday night, per NBC Sports Boston’s postgame coverage. “He saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. … Just continued to push me and add to that confidence. … It’s cool to hear that from the greatest (coach) of all time.”

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As for Sunday’s game, White provided a solid outing with 17 points and five assists in a 134-101 win for the Celtics. The 29-year-old is averaging career highs across the board this season and gaining respect around the league. Fans in attendance made sure to have their voices heard on the subject on Sunday night.

The full-circle stop gave White a chance to reflect on his journey and enjoy playing back where his NBA career began.

“I’ve got a lot of love and respect for the fans here,” White told NBC Sports Boston’s Abby Chin after the win. “Great memories. I’m just thankful.”

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White and the Celtics play their first game of 2024 on Tuesday with a matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. ET.

Featured image via Daniel Dunn/USA TODAY Sports Images