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San Antonio Spurs: White’s return to form skyrockets Spurs potential

Feb 14, 2021; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Derrick White (4) brings the ball up court defended by Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball (2) during the second half at Spectrum Center. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 14, 2021; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Derrick White (4) brings the ball up court defended by Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball (2) during the second half at Spectrum Center. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
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San Antonio Spurs fans should know this but if you’re looking for a good litmus test of someone’s basketball knowledge, ask them how they feel about Derrick White‘s contract.

Spurs fans were, for the most part, ecstatic when the Spurs and White came to terms on a four-year, $70 million dollar extension this offseason. The moves was derided by some who were either unfamiliar with White’s body of work or simply misunderstood how much he means to this Spurs team.

Unfortunately, Spurs fans didn’t have much to point to when they wanted to make a case for why the contract was such a steal. Our collective attention spans aren’t what they used to be and what happened in the Orlando bubble seems like years ago, not months.

But now White is back to looking like the player he did in the bubble and he’s lifting the spirits of San Antonio Spurs fans just as much as he’s lifting the collective ceiling of this team.

Derrick White makes San Antonio Spurs one of the West’s best teams

Throughout their highs and lows, I’ve tried to keep my view of this year’s Spurs team as grounded as possible. They were, for all their success and failures, still an incomplete team for much of the season. But with Derrick White looking like himself once again I think it’s safe to make a more complete judgment on the potential of this group.

No one is going to mistake the Charlotte Hornets for the Utah Jazz or the Los Angeles Lakers but what the Spurs did in Charlotte last night was still impressive and speaks volumes about this team’s depth and resiliency.

On a night where San Antonio’s veterans couldn’t get it going, the young players stepped up. The trio of Keldon Johnson, Dejounte Murray, and White combined for 69 points, 13 assists, 22 rebounds, and 7 steals.

It was an impressive but run-of-the-mill outing for Johnson and Murray, both of whom have proved that they’re capable of having nights like this on a regular basis. The bigger story here is how White played, and what that means for the Spurs going forward.

White had looked hesitant in his first few games back but in these past two contests against Atlanta and Charlotte, he’s really looked like the player we saw in Orlando. This was especially true during the closing stretch last night as White demanded the ball and scored 12 of his 25 points in the final quarter.

During those final 12 minutes, White was in his bag. He was shooting the ball confidently, hit a clutch and one, and drove into the heart of the defense for a contortionist finish to ice the game entirely.

https://videos.nba.com/nba/pbp/media/2021/02/14/0022000414/636/af4bacc2-bed2-f6b2-b735-dc6bf9be1f7c_1280x720.mp4

Having White playing at such a high level does wonders for the Spurs. On nights like this when Patty Mills and DeMar DeRozan are struggling it gives them another option who can pick up the slack and grind out tough road wins. On nights where everyone has it going, it’ll give the Spurs another head for their hydra-like offense to use to probe and collapse a defense with.

The playoffs are still far from a sure thing but you’ve got to feel good about where the Spurs are sitting right now. They’re hitting their stride, have a week full of winnable Eastern Conference games, the weakest remaining strength of schedule in the league, and sit fairly secure in the sixth spot in the Western Conference.

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There’s still a lot of basketball left to be played but Derrick White’s return certainly elevates the potential of the San Antonio Spurs. We’re well past thinking about the lottery, let’s start talking about this team as one of the more dangerous in the Western Conference.

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