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Nuggets Journal: Celtics point guard, Colorado native Derrick White still can’t get a table at Casa Bonita

Not even the most successful Coloradan in the NBA today can get a table at Colorado’s most famous restaurant.

Rest assured, Derrick White tried.

“I tried to go to Casa Bonita this summer and I couldn’t get in there,” the Celtics guard said Thursday morning. “So it’s big time. I want to go to Casa Bonita. I’m a Casa Bonita fan.”

He’ll have to wait until summer now — or maybe late spring, if he faces his hometown team in the 2024 NBA Finals as has been predicted by the majority of basketball pundits.

White’s visits to Denver are always a special occasion. The former CU Buffs star goes to his parents’ house. He sees old friends from Legend High School in Parker. People tell him they’re rooting for him to have a good game but for the Nuggets to win. (“Not my good friends,” White clarified.)

But this one was different — for the Nuggets and White.

Denver is a defending NBA champion for the first time in franchise history, selling out Ball Arena on a nightly basis that might’ve seemed improbable when White was younger. “Definitely a lot more Nuggets fans than when I was in high school,” he said. “So it’s exciting for the city.”

As for him? Since his buzzer-beater saved Boston’s season (for one game, anyway) in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, his prominence has increased. So has his role. The point guard has evolved into one of the most valuable two-way players in Boston’s exceptional starting lineup.

When White is on the court, the NBA-best Celtics outscore their opponents by 13.7 points per 100 possessions. It’s the best individual net rating for any player in the league.

“To me, what jumps out is just he’s playing so much more confidently,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “Our first year in the playoffs when he was in San Antonio, we beat them in seven games, and he had a couple really big games in that series. You just watch his maturation, his progression as a player, and he just looks really, really confident out there.”

“You see the same people (when visiting Denver), who treat you the same whether you’re playing well or bad,” White said. “So that’s the nice thing.”

White was hesitant to entertain the idea of a Nuggets-Celtics Finals so soon, but he confessed that he couldn’t bring himself to root for Denver in the 2023 series against Miami. “It hurt too much,” he said. After his dramatic Game 6 tip-in, Boston fell one win short of being the Nuggets’ challenger for the title.

If there was any silver lining? The Celtics were mobilized in the offseason, exchanging Grant Williams and Marcus Smart for Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday. Holiday and White have provided a consistent backbone as one of the better defensive backcourt duos in the league. The new shape of Boston’s starting five helped foster White’s renaissance. His scoring, shooting and distributing are all at career highs in his seventh season.

And while he has put up those numbers, Tad Boyle has sustained the cycle of elite guard development at CU with current junior K.J. Simpson, who’s on the Wooden Award watch list.

“He’s been incredible,” White said. “I’ve got a lot of respect for him. Came out and talked to him this summer, and I could tell he was ready to go. He was excited. He works hard, he competes and he’s been incredible all year. Looking forward to seeing how he has this little tournament run. … He’s been unreal all year.”

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