With 8:20 left in the second quarter of Game 6 of the NBA Finals Thursday, Celtics forward Jayson Tatum briefly lost control of the ball near the foul line before gathering it and firing a pass to Derrick White at the right arc.
Although White had missed four shots in a row, he did not hesitate before firing up this attempt. Then he watched it sail about a foot to the left of the rim before slamming off the lower side of the backboard. White did not take another shot and played just 2:20 in the second half of the Celtics’ season-ending 103-90 loss, capping a mostly forgettable series for the team’s big midseason acquisition.
During 159 total minutes with White on the court against the Warriors, Boston was outscored by 18.7 points per 100 possessions. The guard drilled five 3-pointers and scored 21 points in the Game 1 win but went just 12 for 44 from the field over the rest of the series, as the Celtics lost four of the last five games.
“Game 1, obviously, was great,” White said. “Just trying to stay confident. Just being consistent with my form. Try to have every shot be the same and not have that variability.”
White became a dependable part of coach Ime Udoka’s rotation after being acquired from the Spurs in February, as his defense, passing, pace, and general court awareness created value despite his mediocre shooting numbers. And he thrived in the conference finals against the Heat after missing Game 1 because of the birth of his son, Hendrix.
But he understands that his season generally will be remembered for how it ended, and he hopes to rectify that.
“The first thing is I’m going to be in the gym, working on shooting, getting stronger and all the little things that will make a difference between winning and losing,” White said. “Just having your mind and body ready to go from training camp, and understand that we have that final hurdle to clear and it ain’t going to be guaranteed. So we have to have the right mind-set this whole offseason.”
White, who turns 28 in two weeks, has three seasons remaining on the four-year, $70 million deal he signed with the Spurs last year. He said it was a whirlwind after arriving in Boston in February, particularly with the looming birth of his son. But he’s hopeful that a structured and consistent summer will put him in a better place when next season begins.
“It’s going to be nice,” he said. “Just having that training camp, having that foundation that I’ll be a part of from the beginning. I won’t be moving and trying to get settled in and everything while they have everything kind of already set.”
At the conclusion of a somewhat combative series, Celtics forward Grant Williams and Warriors forward Draymond Green had a lengthy chat near midcourt in which they appeared pleased to finally show their mutual respect.
“As I’ve always said, Draymond’s the guy that I always idolized growing up, and he’s the ultimate competitor,” Williams explained Friday. “And it’s one of those things showing the respect that was deserved.
“As much as we trash talk, or as much as we go at it, at the end of the day, we leave it on the court. And that’s exactly how I think both of us are and both of us play. So it was a little bit of just congratulations from my end, and him instilling words of wisdom for the future.
“And you’ve always got to respect a man like that. He’s a phenomenal, phenomenal guy … He basically just said, ‘You’ll be back when you get back, don’t allow the opportunity to slip again, and just continue to improve.’ ”
Williams expressed similar admiration for Green prior to the series, and that actually led to things simmering between them. Green said that when Williams started trash-talking him during Game 2, he reminded Williams that despite his hopes to become him, he was simply not at his level. They tangled a few times, and Green was even whistled for a technical foul when they locked up in Game 2.
Williams, who is eligible for a contract extension this offseason and made 41.1 percent of his 3-pointers this season, is hopeful his ascension will continue and that the gap between him and Green will narrow even further.
“My No. 1 thing is where, no matter if you’re a coach, no matter if you’re a player, no matter if you’re anyone in the stands, you’re looking at that guy and saying, ‘He can’t come off [the floor] because he’s making such an impact,’ ” Williams said. “So that’s my approach for the upcoming year.”
It was a frustrating season for second-year wing Aaron Nesmith, who was not able to crack the regular rotation after the Celtics’ midseason overhaul resulted in the bottom of the roster being filled with G League call-ups.
Nesmith appeared in 52 games, averaged 3.8 points, and connected on just 27 percent of his 3-point attempts. He was 1 for 11 from beyond the arc in the postseason, with most of the attempts coming late in blowouts.
“Right after preseason ended, I’m not quite sure what happened this year,” Nesmith said. “So kind of just need to take a mental break and take a step away and get back to doing what I do at a high level.
“I think a lot of it is not physical, it’s just mental. So just being able to take a break from basketball for 10 days or two weeks and get right back into it will be very beneficial to me heading into next season.”
Nesmith said he was unsure whether he will play in the NBA’s Las Vegas summer league next month.