Before the Boston Celtics traded for Derrick White in February they’d already started to turn their season around. You’ve probably heard the story by now: They were 1821 after blowing a lead at Madison Square Garden in early January then went 3310 the rest of the way making criticism of their new coach and skepticism about their two stars sound supremely stupid. It was only when they got White though that they became the Celtics. They became a team that can shut opponents down even when the Defensive Player of the Year is not on the court. They became a team that could field lineups with no weak links defensively and be more than the sum of their parts offensively. The White trade made Boston complete.
If these Celtics were those Raptors then White would be their Marc Gasol even though he’s seven years younger than Gasol was and they play different positions. Gasol was the tradedeadline addition that took that team over the top and while he was never the best player on the floor he was the guy who kept everybody connected.
To extend this analogy: When Gasol a reluctant but more than capable 3point shooter knocked down shots from the outside as he did in several key playoff moments it could be demoralizing for the opponent. Every team Toronto faced in the playoffs counted on him turning down 3s or missing them. Fifteen games into Boston’s playoff run White had shot 10for48 (20.8 percent) from behind the 3point line most of them wide open and in rhythm. In multiple press conferences coach Ime Udoka stressed that White contributes in a positive way regardless of whether or not his jumper is falling that the Celtics all understand how he kickstarts their ball movement increases their tempo makes good decisions and affects the game defensively.
Udoka was spoton. White doesn’t need to shoot well to help Boston win games. But it sure doesn’t hurt when he does. In White’s last three games he has shot 11for18 from 3point range including 5for8 in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday. You obviously have to pick and choose where you send attention Stephen Curry said after his Golden State Warriors lost 120108 on their home court. Curry credited the Celtics’ Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum for their playmaking then singled out White and Al Horford for their shotmaking. Those two guys are key. You hope they don’t stay that hot but also you’ve got to do something about it and we have to figure that out watching film tomorrow and Saturday.
White is both a recipient and a driver of Boston’s offensive flow. To call him only a connector is to sell him short; he can initiate offense in the halfcourt generate easy baskets on the break score off cuts and as the Warriors found out capitalize on catchandshoot opportunities. He transformed the Celtics though by consistently making sound simple plays often after one of the stars has made the first domino fall and by ensuring that Udoka never had to compromise one end of the floor for the other. That last part differentiates Boston from every team it faced on the way to the Finals and maybe Golden State too.
Derrick is such a smart basketball player he could fit in anywhere Tatum said. I’m glad we got him. I missed my first two but they felt great so I just stayed confident White said. Teammates and coaches have always told me to stay confident. It’s good to see that [first] one go down and just got on a roll from there.