D.J. White Scores 14 In NBA Debut
April 6, 2009
Courtesy Mike Baldwin, Daily Oklahoman
To save money on airfare, D.J. White purchased plane tickets in February for nine relatives to watch the Thunder play April 5 in the Ford Center.
In a strange Hollywood-like coincidence, it ended up being White's NBA debut. For the second consecutive game, a player making his Thunder debut showed promise in a lackluster home loss, this one a 117-99 embarrassment to the Indiana Pacers. Sidelined most of his rookie season following jaw surgery, White scored 14 points in his debut.
"Seeing it on film from college, coaching him in the summer league, D.J. brings effort," said coach Scott Brooks. "It's not a surprise D.J. had a great offensive game. I love that he came in and competed."
That couldn't be said for many of White's teammates. Oklahoma City trailed by as many as 27 points and never mounted a serious threat.
For most of the sellout crowd, a fifth consecutive home loss was a game to forget.
But with his father, Dewayne, and mother, Julia, in town from Tuscaloosa, Ala., in addition to aunts, uncles and cousins, it's a night White will never forget.
"It was a coincidence," White said. "It wasn't planned at all. They were just coming here to see a game. They went to Tulsa to see me play. They were just planning on being here to see a Thunder game."
Last year's Big Ten Player of the Year didn't miss the first shot of his NBA career until midway through the fourth quarter.
"I have no idea what he's gone through," Brooks said. "I never had an injury or an issue like he had. For him to stay mentally and physically ready, it's an incredible story. He gives us energy because that's who he is."
After playing six games with the Tulsa 66ers in the D-League, White made his NBA debut with just over a week left in the season. He received a loud ovation when he entered the game late in the first quarter. White finished 7-of-8 from the field, draining his first six shots, most mid-range jumpers.
"I just took shots that I normally hit," White said. "You're going to miss shots. My teammates did a good job of finding me in the right spots. But we didn't get the victory, which is all that counts. We've got to play much better."
White grabbed only two rebounds, but that's normally his forte
"He has good rebounding skills, a real knack for the ball," Brooks said. "He's long with long arms. He's athletic. The one thing I've stressed with D.J. is to just play hard. I like when he went down (to Tulsa), he took it serious and wanted to improve. "As his conditioning gets better, and he feels the bumps and bruises, and comes back and practice the next day is valuable."
White is simply grateful to play in the final seven games.
"This is something you always remember, your first NBA game" White said. "I felt good out there. Because I thought I might be out the whole year, it's great to have a chance to play to see what I can do."
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