D.J. White is back in the NBA after signing a 10-day contract with the Boston Celtics last week. A first round pick back in 2008, White signed with China’s Shanghai Sharks this past September.
The 2008 Big Ten Player of the Year at Indiana has had a hard time catching on in the NBA, in part because of injuries to his jaw and thumb that required surgery and long rehabilitations. White has played in just 124 games, averaging 6.3 points and 3.4 rebounds in 16.3 minutes over stretches with the Thunder and Bobcats.
White is not a lock to remain with the Celtics over the long-term, but hopes to make an impression before his contract expires. Boston needs size and interior help, which is the reason he and Shavlik Randolph were signed. With a full roster, White and Randolph may be fighting for a deal that spans the remainder of the season.
The duo, along with fellow newcomer Terrence Williams, all played in the CBA this season.
“My team wasn’t the best team, so I got beat by both of those guys twice,” White said of competing against Randolph and Williams overseas. “I was in the low rung, my team wasn’t very good.”
The Celtics signed Williams for the season, with a conditional deal for 2013-14 as well. Clearly, Danny Ainge has paid a lot of attention to the prominent Chinese league.
“They did a good job scouting,” White agreed. “It’s weird how things work out, but all three of us are happy to be here.”
Boston scores 102.6 points per 100 possessions -- good enough for just 24th in the NBA --- and only two teams grab fewer rebounds per game. White is hoping he’ll be able to help cure both issues.
“I’m going to bring energy, defensive rebounding and scoring in some spots,” he said.
“I’ve been in the league before, so I know what to expect.”
White worked out for a number of teams prior to the season, but opted to work on his game overseas. The season ends earlier in China, leaving players enough time to get clearance to sign with an NBA team and still be eligible for the postseason.
“I had a couple of opportunities, but I thought it was in my best interest to go to China,” White explained. “I got a chance to be 'the man’ again, which you really won’t get again in the NBA and it can translate and help in some ways.”
He is brutally honest in admitting his motivation. Over a four-year career at Indiana, White averaged 14.6 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. In China, he was far-and-away the best player on a poor club. He posted 21.6 points and 9.7 rebounds on 56% shooting in 32 games.
“It’s a big adjustment,” he said of shifting roles. “I know myself, being a go-to player in college and getting the ball every possession, but it’s all about the team and you’ve got to take one for the team. I understand at this level, [you aren’t going to dominate] but when the opportunity comes you’ve got to contribute to the club.”
White was only in China for a few months, but coming back to the United States has been an adjustment for the Alabama native.
“The speed of the game is much faster,” he said. “That’s the biggest adjustment basketball-wise.”
That and, of course, good etiquette when it comes to text messages.
“What’s weird is that every time I text somebody, I’m always thinking about whether they are asleep or awake,” White said with a laugh. “I’m adjusting to the fact that everybody is on the same time as I am. I know it’s weird, but that’s probably the biggest adjustment.”
White hasn’t gotten into a game with the Celtics, but he’s learning from Kevin Garnett and hoping that seasoning as a premier player in China has better prepared him for a regular gig.