We are into the New Year and we have a good idea of how most of the teams in the NBA are looking. Many of the injured stars are back or very close to returning so we can see where they are at and how it affects their team. We have also seen most rookies now and have a good idea of what they bring, what they are able to do and just how NBA-ready they are. However, one big story still remains out in Houston, and it doesn’t involve Linsanity or The Beard. It is about Royce White, the rookie and 16th selection out of the University of Minnesota. It is a pretty wild tale and involves some sensitive topics I guess, but continue reading and make up your own mind on the situation.
Arguably one of the top-5 talents in the most recent draft pool, Royce White suffers from an anxiety disorder and a fear of flying. This is no joke even though he was drafted to the “Rockets”, and has affected White throughout his basketball career. He played at Minnesota rather than Kentucky because he couldn’t board the plane to go and meet with UK and Head Coach John Calipari. He fell to Houston at pick 16 because the NBA has a grueling schedule of 82 games and frequently requires flights, back to back to back games etc. The plan for White was to get and RV and be driven to and from games, missing the ones he couldn’t get to, in order to at least progress his career with this disorder. That hasn’t happened yet.
White was the story of the season before it began. Many wondered if he would ever take the court but the Houston franchise appeared to be doing and saying all the right things in order to support Royce as he embarked upon his NBA career. They were prepared to be lenient, supportive, understanding and helpful because this gamble could pay off royally for the Rockets. If White can get it all under control, he can be a star in the league and one that would pair very nicely with Jeremy Lin and James Harden for the future. Unfortunately for all involved, it just isn’t panning out that way.
The disorder and failure to attend practices etc saw Royce White punished through suspension from the Club. Then after much back and forth, the Rockets decided to try and be more patient and more supportive even after a twitter tirade from White had exacerbated the issue. Until recently, Royce had joined the team again and was beginning to practice with the squad. The idea was that they would get him up to speed, get him comfortable and in some sort of routine and then progress from there. The Rockets then assigned White to the D-League and Royce just won’t go. But contrary to what the headlines may read, it is not about being “D-league-moted” but rather the fact the proper precautions and protocols have not taken place (according to White).
There is some truth in the saying “read both sides of the argument and the truth generally resides in the middle somewhere” and I think this is a perfect example. Royce is saying that he will not play until it is medically cleared with doctors etc and the Rockets are saying we have done everything we can and are just trying to progress forward and get him back on the team and eventually into the NBA. I feel that both sides are trying to do the right thing, but neither are sure just what that is. I doubt Royce White is happy not playing basketball. You would not put in the time and effort to forge a career if you were going to turn your back on it. He has a lot of talent and the chance to make a good career and a tonne of coin – you don’t just bail on that. On the flip side, the Rockets are not just trying to suspend him or force him into uncomfortable situations either. I doubt he plays very well if he is anxious all the time and that hurts the Rockets, it doesn’t help.
Royce White says he wants to play in the NBA and that he wants to do it safely. The Rockets say they want Royce White to suit up and be a star and help this franchise to the playoffs. I think both are right, I just think it is going to take a little more understanding, positive communication and planning for it to happen. If both sides are willing to give a little bit more, then the sky is the limit.