Sunday, July 14, 2024

Great Grant Hill quote helps explain Derrick White making Team USA

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Entering this week, all 12 members of the Team USA squad headed to the 2024 Paris Olympics were multiple-time NBA All-Stars. That changed Wednesday, when future Hall of Famer Kawhi Leonard bowed out due to injury and was replaced by Boston Celtics guard Derrick White.

So, why did White — whose USA Basketball bio lists his NBA honors as “2023 All-NBA Defensive Team” and “2018 “NBA G League champion” — get the call instead of a host of other available American stars, including his own Celtics teammate and 2024 NBA Finals MVP Jaylen Brown?

It’s a fair question that Brown himself appeared to ask Wednesday on social media. And USA Basketball managing director Grant Hill has a fair answer.

In an interview with Andscape’s Marc J. Spears, Hill shared a great quote when asked about the challenges of assembling a 12-man roster from such a strong talent pool.

“It’s like a puzzle, man,” Hill told Spears. “You got to put the pieces together that fit and that complement. And so, as a result, you are leaving guys off who are really good and guys that I’m a fan of.

“… But a coach once told me that a team is like a piano recital. You got piano movers, You got piano tuners, and you got piano players. And you need all three to put on a good show. You can’t have all piano players. And so that may fit this or may not, but you need roles and you need guys that fit.”

Hill shared that quote before White was added to the roster Wednesday, but it aptly sums up why the versatile Celtics guard is headed to Paris.

White was the definition of a perfect teammate in Boston this season. He delivered whatever the team required of him with virtually no ego, whether that was setting up Brown and Jayson Tatum as a ball-moving facilitator, taking over as the team’s No. 1 offensive option, or defending the opponent’s best player.

White repeatedly proved he can hit big shots in big moments — he hit 52.2 percent of his “clutch” 3-pointers in 2023-24, the highest percentage in the NBA among players with at least 20 such attempts — but hardly ever forced shots and almost always made the right basketball play.

Essentially, White is the perfect “piano tuner” for Team USA, and Hill appeared to recognize that. White and Celtics teammate Jrue Holiday likely won’t log the most minutes or put up the gaudiest stats in Paris, but they’re ideal role players to augment the Americans’ laundry list of superstars led by LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Jayson Tatum, Joel Embiid and Anthony Edwards (self-appointed).

Brown absolutely is deserving a spot on Team USA, and you could make a good case for the Celtics star over a player like Devin Booker. But White also makes a whole lot of sense on this current roster, and Grant Hill seemingly knows it.

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