"He's afraid of us": Gregg Popovich comically disses former player Derrick White for missing Celtics-Spurs clash

San Antonio Spurs v Chicago Bulls
Greg Popovich is proud of how Derrick White improved as a basketball player in his NBA career

The game on Jan. 17 at the TD Garden featuring the Boston Celtics and San Antonio Spurs brought attention to the reunion of Gregg Popovich and Derrick White. Unfortunately, the former Colorado Buffalo couldn't participate due to an ongoing ankle injury.

When asked about White's absence ahead of the game, Popovich teased his former player with a cheerful remark:

"He's afraid of us. He's not playing tonight. He's sitting it out," said Popovich on White's late scratch from the Celtics-Spurs matchup.

Furthermore, the five-time NBA champion said to the media he even drew up a game plan to stop White:

"I have stuff for him. We are going to destroy him so he sat out," Popovich added.

But more so, having played for the Spurs in his first five seasons in the league, White's first NBA coach is happy to see him thrive and be a key player for the Boston Celtics:

"I'm thrilled for him. I mean I love the kid. [I] keep in touch with him and he's one of the great examples of working through it. [In the] G League a couple of years, he didn't even think he'd belong in the league," Popovich said.

Derrick White's early years with San Antonio Spurs under Gregg Popovich

Derrick White was not initially regarded as a top prospect but the defied expectations and earned recognition at the 2017 NBA Draft Combine. Despite not being in Rival's top 150 prospects in high school and bypassing Division I college programs, White had a unique journey that caught the attention of Greg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs.

Drafted as the No. 29 pick in the 2017 NBA draft, White subsequently joined the team's Summer League roster.

Debuting in the NBA on Oct. 18, 2017, White exhibited his potential with a career-high 14 points against the Houston Rockets on March 12, 2018. He participated in the playoffs as well, contributing seven points in a game against the Golden State Warriors. Throughout the 2018-2019 season, he continued to get better with high scores and notable performances.

The Spurs signed White to a four-year, $73 million rookie scale extension in December 2020 in recognition of his contributions. He rewarded the team by creating a career milestone of seven 3-pointers in a double overtime loss against the Atlanta Hawks in April 2021.

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During the middle of the 2021-22 season, White was traded to the Boston Celtics. The trade included Josh Richardson, Romeo Langford and a 2022 first-round pick that later became David Wesley, along with the provision to exchange 2028 first-round picks.

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Edited by Veer Badani