Forward D.J. White has been cleared by team doctors to participate in full-contact practices and play in games. With 15 games remaining on the season, however, it’s unclear if White will make his debut this year or if Thunder officials will hold him out of games until 2009-10.
White, the 29th overall pick in last year’s draft, has yet to play this season after undergoing surgery to repair a benign growth in his jaw. White underwent the first of two surgeries this season on Oct. 13 to remove the growth in his jaw. Doctors performed a second surgery on Jan. 4 to take a bone graft from the right side of his hip and mend the bone in his jaw. He had a routine check up Monday and received news that he has recovered enough to resume all basketball activities.
White still has visible swelling on the left side of his jaw but has been an active member of light practices and shoot-around sessions, doing everything but full-contact drills. Whenever White takes the court, he is expected to add depth to the Thunder’s frontcourt with interior toughness, a knack for rebounding and a polished offensive game that includes a consistent jump hook from the left block and shooting range out to 17 feet.
“He’s very athletic and he’s very active, especially on the boards,” said rookie Russell Westbrook, who teamed with White during the Orlando Summer League last July. “He can score and bring people out to the elbow. He’s going to be a good asset for us, especially rebounding and blocking shots.”
Great news not just for the Thunder, but even more for D.J. It’s got to be rough to be shelved for virtually your whole rookie season while you watch teammates grind it out and you’re sitting on the bench in a suit every night. Especially with something as random as a growth on your jaw. And this hopefully means he’s over this little issue.
He can do a lot for OKC off the bench. He makes the Thunder a lot deeper and can add a very good physical presence in the post, rebound and block shots. People kind of forgot about him, but he was the Big 10 player of the year last year and a second team All-American. Dude can play.
UPDATE: White has been assigned to the Tulsa 66ers and is expected to rejoin the team and make his debut with OKC before the end of the year.