A career in the NBA is never promised, and sometimes it can all be taken away in the blink of an eye.
Okaro White saw that happen to him back in November when he suffered a foot injury not too long after the season began. Everything had been going great for him up to that point.
Off the strength of a solid performance off a pair of ten-day contracts during the 2016-17 season, White was able to turn that into a two-year deal with the Miami HEAT, his first real NBA contract.
This past season, he took advantage of early injuries to earn a spot in the starting lineup and became an indispensable part of Miami’s small ball lineups. The injury occurred not too long after that, however, and the prognosis was a four to six month recovery period.
While recovering from his injury, he was traded to the Atlanta Hawks at the trade deadline and subsequently waived. Despite the injury, he didn’t stay a free agent for long. The Cleveland Cavaliers came calling with a ten-day contract before signing him for the remainder of the season.
“It was a blessing the way Cleveland picked me up. I was honored to see that going into my second year, a team did see something in me even though I was injured,” White told Basketball Insiders. “It was a blessing that they did that and I’m just thankful, but I got to keep working. They gave me an opportunity and I got to prove myself again.”
However, his contract for this upcoming season with the Cavaliers was not guaranteed. Following the team’s recent move in acquiring Sam Dekker from the Los Angeles Clippers, White became a roster casualty as space was needed.
He knew, though, that staying with the Cavaliers beyond the playoffs was never secure, especially with not having been able to set foot on the court in months. He participated in summer league in Las Vegas with the Cavaliers, and it was essentially a re-learning experience for him.
“I was hoping to get back to playing organized, five on five basketball with referees and everything,” White told Basketball Insiders. “It was a shocking injury I had in December, I wasn’t expecting that. I was just trying to get back into the game.”
He put up a strong performance while in Las Vegas. White appeared in all seven of the Cavaliers summer league games and put up 6.0 points per game and 7.4 rebounds.
It was a bit of a challenge for him being able to get back out on the court and showcase his game. He did not appear in any of the Cavaliers’ final regular season games, nor did he get into any playoff games. Summer league marked the first time since November that he got into a real game.
“I didn’t realize how hard it was if you stop playing basketball for about six months,” White told Basketball Insiders. “I’m just trying to get back to running up and down, trying to feel my body out and make sure I’m back to as strong as I was before the injury.”
Back when he was with the HEAT, White had begun to emerge as a legitimate stretch power forward. He shot 36.4 percent from the three-point line with just about two attempts per game.
If his summer performance showed anything, it’s that he is making a speedy recovery and is able to contribute to an NBA team. White knows what got him to the NBA in the first place and he’s confident that, if given the opportunity, he can still bring that to a rotation.
“I’m going to try to bring what I can right now as far as defense, energy and trying to hit the open three,” White told Basketball Insiders. “I’ll try to build on that coming off of this injury, but right now I’ve got to do the things that got me here.”
With the changing landscape of the way basketball is played today in the NBA, he fits in perfectly as a defensive-minded big man who can step out and hit the three. And as the summer winds to a close and training camp draws near, don’t be surprised to see White latch on quickly with another team.
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