BOSTON — Just moments before the Celtics and Knicks met at center-court for Thursday night’s matchup at TD Garden, guard Derrick White was honored as the team’s 2024 Red Auerbach Award winner.

Each year, the organization recognizes a player who best exemplifies what it means to be Celtic, doing so since the award was unveiled in 2006 — and named after nine-time NBA Finals champion Red Auerbach.

White, who’s in the third year of his Boston tenure, has fit the profile since joining the Celtics at the midway point of the 2021-22 season. Following a patient and steady first two seasons with the team, White was promoted as a full-time starting guard entering this season, tasked with being himself and spreading his selfless mindset as an efficient two-way floor general.

Last season, White’s confidence soared, particularly on the defensive end. He led the team in blocks (76) while playing alongside then-teammate Marcus Smart, who was just a year removed from winning the league’s Defensive Player of the Year Award. White earned an NBA All-Defensive Second Team nod, proving himself as a must-have component to Boston’s winning formula.

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Receiving an upgraded role as a key member of an upgraded Celtics roster, White hasn’t lost sight of his modest playstyle that’s grown to be appreciated by teammates and fans. In fact, while still committed to being the quintessential team-first player, White even assembled a convincing bid at being named to this season’s All-Star Game.

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That never fell through in White’s favor, however, the seven-year veteran has continued to garner league-wide recognition throughout the season.

“He can score, he can play make, he can help weak sides, he can see over people,” Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau said before New York’s matchup with Boston at TD Garden. “Defensively, he’s terrific. Switching, guarding multiple positions, never quits on a play. … Just have to have great awareness as to where he is at all times.”

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White has averaged a career-high 15.3 points, leading all NBA guards in blocks (1.2) and shooting 46.3% from the field. He’s made 72 starts, all while being at the forefront of Boston’s new-and-improved identity.

Many across the league might be late in giving White his well-deserved flowers, but the Celtics are well aware of what he’s meant so far.

Boston can further prove that appreciation by presenting White with a new contract extension to get ahead of his 2025 free agency.

Featured image via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images