TORONTO â€“ D.J. White averaged a double-double last season with the Thunder organization, but it came with the Tulsa 66ers of the NBA Developmental League.
A native of Tuscaloosa, Ala., and a former standout at Indiana, the 6-foot-9, 251-pound White averaged 20.2 points, 11.1 rebounds and 39.2 minutes in 10 appearances with the 66ers.
Now ineligible to play in the D-League, White has had more of an NBA presence this year. He entered with 19 career appearances but already has 11 this year.
The 29th pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, White battled injuries his first two seasons. He missed his first 75 games as a pro because of jaw surgery and missed 11 games last season with a fractured right thumb.
Averaging 9.9 minutes per appearance, White has been a stabilizing presence for the physically unstable Thunder that has been nagged by injuries.
â€œHe's a tremendous kid who works every day,â€ Thunder coach Scott Brooks said of White. â€œI have a lot of confidence in him, but there's only so many minutes that you can give to the team. When we're down a man or a man is needed, he's a very capable player. I'm excited he's had success this early part of the season. I'm not afraid to play him. I used to always think he was just a scoring option, but his defense has improved.â€
With the Thunder (13-6) playing at Toronto (7-11) at 6 p.m. Friday, we sat down for a brief chat with White:
Scott Brooks said in the three-plus years you've been here, you've never complained once about a lack of playing time.
â€œIt's part of being a professional. We're all in a fortunate situation, and there's no need to complain or whine. I haven't played much, but a lot of that was due to injury. I feel when I have played, I've played well and proven I can play in this league. So, it's just about staying ready.â€
How tough was it to have your NBA career begin with jaw surgery, of all things?
â€œIt was very tough, devastating. Playing in the NBA was my life dream. To get here and you can't play because of something I couldn't control was very difficult. But at the same time, you have to stay positive.â€
Brooks said he knew of your offensive skills, but you also have a defensive presence. Have you always been underappreciated on defense?