As the San Antonio Spurs took the court for warmups on Saturday, the big screen focused on Derrick White for a while. In normal circumstances, the vision would’ve drawn raucous applause from a home crowd anxious to see their budding star do what he does best. Instead, pumped-n crowd noise and artificial Go Spurs Go chants would have to do.
Of course, the Memphis Grizzlies didn’t give the Spurs’ hypothetical crowd much to cheer for in their first game in 12 days. Leading by as many as 19, they had an answer for every punch San Antonio threw at them throughout the contest.
Despite the lopsided loss, there was some good to come out of the game: mainly the play of Derrick White.
Assessing Derrick White’s return to the San Antonio Spurs
Derrick looked like his usual self on the court Saturday. What he’s become so exceptional at is knowing where to be on the court at all times. With his first shot of the game, he saw LaMarcus Aldridge being triple-teamed near the corner and moved over into Aldridge’s line of sight for a wide-open three.https://videos.nba.com/nba/pbp/media/2021/01/30/0022000304/86/c7f01c5a-c655-28f8-2c4e-47ad75507161_1280x720.mp4
White finished the game shooting 3-of-6 from the outside, including a big one that cut the Memphis lead to five with five minutes left. Overall, he shot 6-of-11 from the field to end the night with a team-leading 18 points. Not bad at all for not having played since January 1st.
Derrick’s only assist of the night was also a beauty, putting his basketball IQ on full display once again. Here, he turns a 40 percent shot into a lock by finding Jakob Poeltl inside.https://videos.nba.com/nba/pbp/media/2021/01/30/0022000304/432/908f1c3f-cff9-fa5c-00c9-84d6b5762a15_1280x720.mp4
Defensively, White drew a patented charge, nabbed two steals, and contested well in his 22 minutes. Unfortunately, the Memphis Grizzlies are number one in the league in points in the paint at 54.7 per game, and that showed on Saturday. White alone couldn’t keep guys like Ja Morant and De’Anthony Melton from getting inside.
The best news for San Antonio is how spry White looked in his limited minutes, showing he’s ready to pick up where he left off in the Orlando bubble. While that will mean adjustments from some guys that were getting more minutes, that’s a good problem to have. “I felt good. I tried to get my legs back underneath me,” he told the media after the game.
With Monday’s rematch against Memphis on the horizon, I would expect White’s minutes to slowly increase as the season progresses. As for his return game? It’s hard to expect much more than we got.