Boston Celtics

Gregg Popovich ‘couldn't be more proud' of Derrick White

White spent his first four-and-a-half NBA seasons playing for Popovich in San Antonio.

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For four-plus years, Gregg Popovich had a front-row seat to watch Derrick White develop into the player he is today.

White was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs in 2017. He played under Popovich until the 2022 NBA trade deadline, when he was sent to the Boston Celtics in exchange for Romeo Langford, Josh Richardson, and a first-round pick.

Since then, White has become one of the Celtics' most consistent players. The 29-year-old earned his first All-Defensive selection last season and has made a compelling case for his first career All-Star nod this year.

With the Celtics in San Antonio for New Year's Eve, Popovich took a moment before their matchup to heap praise on his former player.

"I just couldn't be more proud of a player," the longtime Spurs coach said during his pregame press conference. "When he first came, I don't think he believed he belonged in the NBA. And to watch him develop through the years here, starting with the G League and playing with us and then starting for us and then taking more steps in Boston has just been a thrill to watch.

"He's one of the greatest guys ever and his confidence has just exploded. It's been a process. He's been in the league six, seven years? I'm not sure anymore, but he's a great story. Starting out at the bottom and believing in himself and doing the work necessary to get where he is now. So, just thrilled for him."

What was the key to helping White become a more confident player?

"Supporting him and playing him and making sure he knew he was on the right track all the time and doing well, Popovich said. "He had a natural affinity and understanding of the game IQ-wise and I don't think he knew about himself.

"He's an innately good passer, for instance, and you could see it immediately but he didn't even think of himself that way. He was too humble, I guess, to start out, and now he's figured it out."

White entered Sunday averaging a career-high 17.0 points, 5.3 assists, 3.9 rebounds, 1.3 blocks, and 1.3 steals through 28 games. He's also shooting a career-best 48.6 percent from the floor and 41.3 percent from 3-point range.

In December, White has taken his game to another level with 20.5 points, 5.5 assists, and 4.2 rebounds in 13 games. He'll look to improve those marks against his former team.

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