It has widely been known that Houston Rockets' rookie power forward Royce White has anxiety issues, specifically with flying on planes. It was not a surprise sprung on the Rockets organization out of nowhere post-draft. This was known by all thirty general managers well before the draft, and managed to scare fourteen other teams from taking a chance on him. Now it looks as if those other teams conventional thinking was the right way to go.
Unconventional, outside-the-box Rockets GM Daryl Morey took a calculated chance on White this summer. By calculated, I literally mean it. Every move Morey makes is from the "Small-ball 101" handbook. Getting the most bang for your buck by evaluating statistics in ways never thought of before, which has caught on even more since the days of the Oakland A's Billy Beane and now prevalent in Houston with Morey. Role players consistently play a huge role for the Rockets' successes in recent years.
In the summer, Morey raved about how good White was progressing. His raw talent, size, and freakish athleticism seemed to progressing in a way that satisfied the Rockets' organization. They knew he might be a project, but with a little guidance (Hakeem anyone?) they figured be patient, and the 16th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft would pay off down the line.
Which brings us to the current situation: Royce White versus the Houston Rockets, with Royce White versus his anxiety in the co-main event. He has yet to play this season, citing his anxiety as a major health problem. He spoke with Yahoo Sports on using a bus during the season.
"What it's going to look like is every game that's drivable, I'm going to get a bus for myself," White said. "And I'm going to make that bus feel like home so that there's a level of consistency in a job where inconsistency is very apparent because of the schedule. I'm going to try and level that out and make sure that my stress levels stay low and that my rest is regular and that my meals are regular and that as much as I can, draw consistency from a very inconsistent schedule. People with mental illness, one of the most important things is that they have that consistency and routine. The girth of (my request) was, 'Can I travel by bus to close enough games?' "
To their credit, the Rockets have been very patient with their young star. The "star" referring to his days at Iowa State, where he drew praises for carrying them to the NCAA tournament as an 8 seed, losing to the eventual champions Kentucky in the third round. They are not trying to leave White on a limb here, but are trying to be as patient as possible.
While I would never try and get in someone's head and tell you what they are thinking, I strongly believe White is painting himself as a victim in a way to get his way. Yes he deals with anxiety, and it can be referred to as a disease. But he wants everything on his terms. He wants the doctors to help him construct a plan, and wants the Rockets to agree to everything with no leeway for them to maneuver any of their own ideas into the fold. It's White's way or bust. Which has led to his current stance which he posted to Twitter Thursday night: "I'm not PLANNING to quit, but if its between my HEALTH and BASKETBALL, health takes precedence."
What White has to learn though, is that at the end of the day the NBA is a business. This isn't a youth league, or a charity. He is an adult now, and will be treated as such. White's problems can be helped with, but to demonize the people who gave him an opportunity in the league, and are paying him to play for them is almost a figurative death wish for his career. This shows teams around the league that they were right. If White does leave the Rockets and ends up wanting to play in the NBA, what team is going to give him a shot now?
If this saga continues to get worse for the Rockets, the worst possibly thing is White quitting. After dealing away the six top scorers from last season in hopes of stashing picks that would land them Dwight Howard, the Rockets would now be left with only one from all of that movement (Terrance Jones). Granted they got James Harden by trading Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb, but in this situation they would get nothing for White. He'd leave on his own terms. He'd leave a lot of money on the table as well. If White is as determined as he's shown on Twitter and in interviews about getting his way or leaving, Morey has no leverage.
The typical situation is a young player doing anything to stay on a team, whether it is practice hard to get better, or biding time on the bench until they can get their chance to show management and fans what they are capable of. The general manager can most assuredly control the fate of the player in that scenario. But Morey here cannot get reparations in any way from the NBA if he loses White. It would be like finding a puppy who is very jumpy and lacking trust, then busting your ass to help the dog trust you, and then one day it just runs away.
White needs to work more with the Rockets to deal with his anxiety, and not expect everything on his terms. Don't run away, Royce. Too many basketball players around the world would jump at the chance to be on an NBA roster. If he does quit, years later White might look back and realize he should've given this whole crazy NBA experience a shot.