ORLANDO, Fla. — D.J. White's self-belief has never wavered. Not even in the least.
And he's had plenty of reasons to see it rattled. From a benign growth in his jaw during his rookie season, to a thumb injury and being leapfrogged in the rotation as a sophomore, White has gone through the gamut of what generally keeps playing time out of reach.
"I feel that when I do get a chance to get on the court, I'm capable of doing good things," White said Thursday after getting an off day from Game 4 of the team's five-game summer league schedule. "All I can do is go into training camp and try to crack the rotation."
Such sentiments are reserved for rookies, not third-year players such as White. Yet that's precisely the predicament in which White finds himself. In his first two seasons, White has appeared in only 19 games, logging a grand total of 231 minutes. With the passing of each month, White's career has tiptoed further from the decorated years he carved out at Indiana, where he earned Big Ten Player of the Year honors in 2008 before becoming the 29th overall pick.
White's third season now appears to be a make or break year in Oklahoma City — if management considers him skilled enough to keep around beyond this summer.
It could be a pressure-filled time. But the ever-mellow White insists the circumstances haven't gotten to him.
"That's what you live for is to play under pressure," White said.
Only White is a ways away from playing. Barring an outstanding training camp and preseason in October, White figures to enter the regular season fourth on the depth chart at power forward, behind starter Jeff Green, veteran reserve Nick Collison and second-year man Serge Ibaka. With Nenad Krstic and rookie Cole Aldrich at center, the front court has become overcrowded.
The stable of big men could not have bulged at a worst time for White.
Because White is in his third season, league rules prohibit the Thunder from assigning him to the Tulsa 66ers of the NBA D-League. That means general manager Sam Presti must soon make a decision on White, either now or during the season if he hasn't hurdled the competition.