When the San Antonio Spurs dealt Derrick White to the Boston Celtics on February 10th, it was the first time the two legendary franchises had ever done business with each other. It's safe to say the decision worked out for everyone.
In just 113 days, the 27-year-old went from being a key piece on a rebuilding team to a big-time role player suiting up in his first NBA Finals. Oh yeah, and he also became a first-time father along the way. It's undoubtedly been a rollercoaster of a season for the beloved Colorado native, but even though he was surprised that the franchise that gave him his first shot let him go, he took everything in stride.
Now White, along with former Spurs assistant coach Will Hardy and former Spurs player and assistant coach Ime Udoka, are four wins away from becoming champions. You're welcome, Boston Celtics. But you're owed some thanks as well.
Derrick White always had this in him
You see, many Spurs fans could see what Derrick White had within himself early on. He wasn't just a one-hit-wonder after his breakout series against the Denver Nuggets in the 2018-19 NBA Playoffs. No, he was much more than that.
White quickly emerged into a do-it-all two-way talent that always made huge plays on both ends. He never quite made the leap to stardom -- something I was expecting him to do. In fact, I picked him to be the Spurs' leading scorer before the season because of the massive potential he'd displayed, but it soon became clear that Dejounte Murray was San Antonio's new star.
What he did do, however, was play stellar defense, push the pace with intelligence, and draw charges like no other. When he was sent northeast, he continued doing all of the same things but in green and white. In a closeout opportunity against Miami in Game 6, he scored 22 points, dished out five assists, and committed theft three times.
Unfortunately, White's effort was in vain, as Boston ended up dropping the game to set up a decisive Game 7. In a way, that sums up a lot of Derrick's career in the Alamo City. He was clearly always a talented player that made winning plays, but it takes a full team headlined by stars and superstars to get to the NBA Playoffs and advance.
The Celtics are giving Derrick what the Spurs couldn't -- and that's ok
San Antonio hasn't been able to offer up the mixture of star power and a super-talented supporting cast required to go far in the last few seasons. Boston clearly had that with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown leading the way and a cast including guys like Marcus Smart and Al Horford. The Spurs just happened to have the one last piece needed to take them where they wanted to be, and the eventual deal didn't work out so badly for them either.
Josh Richardson quickly became beloved in San Antonio and buried long-range bombs throughout his entire tenure with the Spurs so far. He's also taken up a veteran leadership role and embraced the young core in a big way.
The Spurs also have the 25th pick next month courtesy of Boston and will be receiving a 1st round NBA Draft pick from them in 2028 as long as it's not number one overall, both of which are definitely worth a thank you in itself. But as a sentimental fan at heart, there's something more immediate to say thanks for.
Boston is showing the world what Spurs fans always knew
Thank you, Boston Celtics, for showing the world what many of us in San Antonio have known for years. Sometimes, you just don't have those pieces around you to get it done even if you have it in you to be a winner. Just ask Charles Barkley or Karl Malone. I'm not saying Derrick is on that level, but he's always had that winner spirit in him, and you're making it possible for him to show that on the big stage.
Of course, the Golden State Warriors might have a thing or two to say about all of this, and they could very well stop the party here. But no matter what happens, the city of San Antonio will be rooting for the guy that gave his heart, soul, and teeth (literally) to the Silver and Black for 247 games.
Don't be surprised if you see Derrick White sacrifice his body to take a huge charge in a clutch moment of an NBA Finals game soon. Or swipe down to strip Klay Thompson in the guts of the game. He just has that winner's gene in him, and you're giving him a chance to show that.
Thanks for giving Derrick a shot to show what we always knew he had in him -- and you're welcome.