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Houston, We Have A Mental Health Problem
Royce White, the 16th overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft, is serious about his mental health. How serious? Enough to jeopardize his NBA career without even stepping onto the court in a Houston Rockets jersey during the regular season.
The strange and weird saga of White’s battle between the Rockets front office and his own personal issues has caused a ruckus in the organization. The Rockets are juggling how to deal with a rookie who is using his obsessive compulsive disorder and anxiety related issues as a platform to spur the organization into a mental health battlefield. This is not a rant proclaiming the 21 year-old is in the wrong for bringing his mental health to the forefront of his career decisions. By all means, it should be a sign of wisdom that he holds his personal well-being in such high regard.
However, did the former Iowa State power forward have no idea what he was getting into? Was White completely blindsided by the fact that NBA teams utilize airplanes to travel from city to city? Did he not take into consideration that his anxiety disorder might provide a hinderance when it comes to living the life of a professional basketball player?
The Rockets are bending over backwards to accommodate White as he decides if each offer they bring to the table to console him is good enough. So far, White has passed on Houston’s methods of dealing with his situation and hasn’t played in a game yet.
Let’s look at what the Houston front office has done so far to make sure the rookie, who spent a total of zero minutes playing professional basketball, is a happy and anxiety-free camper.
- White missed the first week of training camp to meet with the Rockets in order to hash out a way to deal with his anxiety disorder. The Rockets offered White an RV to travel to games in order to alleviate his fear of flying. This worked for a few games before White stopped getting on the bus altogether.
- White stops showing up to team practices, taking to Twitter to cite Houston’s lack of support regarding his mental health issues.
- The Rockets, not wanting to see a draft pick wasted, reach out to White and assign him to the D-League. White refused.
- Houston, finally coming to its senses, suspended White for “refusing to provide services.”
What a way to make a great first impression at a new job, right? Kudos to Houston GM Daryl Morey for not washing his hands of this whole debacle and trying to figure out a way to get White on the court. Royce White lucked out when Houston picked him in June. How many other teams would still be reaching out to a player not interested in playing?
Nonetheless, something’s got to give. The latest news is that White and the Rockets are ironing out the last few details for the talented power forward to return to the D-League on February 11.
Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reports, “according to a person with knowledge of the plan,the Rockets are close to making an announcement in which White would return to the team under a written agreement that includes key elements of the protocols that White wanted to have as an addendum to his contract.”
That is, of course, unless White decides that Houston is still not doing enough to deliver a safe environment for him to make buckets and bucks.
Royce White is a potential beast who could have a long and successful career in the league. While playing for Iowa State, White led the Cyclones in five statistical categories (13.4 points per game, 9.2 rebounds per game, 5.1 assists per game, 1 block per game and 1.2 steals per game). These numbers would make most GM’s salivate, yet White’s battle with anxiety and other issues pushed him down to the 16th pick in the draft where Houston grabbed him.
White is doing a very good job of ruining a promising career. If he wants to be the voice of mental health in the league, then he needs to play. Otherwise, White’s possibly short NBA stint will be a loud warning to other teams that players with mental health issues are just not worth pursuing.
So Royce has to make a choice. Either play ball and work out a way to deal with your issues with the possibility of shining a light on the Collective Bargaining Agreement’s lack of detail on player’s mental health protocol, or choose to throw away a dream opportunity while looking like, for lack of a better word, a nut job.
Sure, White has issues and they are nothing to laugh at. But this is a “what have you done for me lately” business. And White, whatever his intentions are, has shown that lately he’s been nothing but a problem. A problem that hasn’t spent any time on the floor playing with his teammates mind you.
If White gets what he wants there could be a dark flip side to the whole ordeal. Don’t be surprised if future draft classes up the ante on their demands before playing in a single NBA game. There is the ugly possibility that some young players will no longer be content as a first round draft pick heading to the NBA to fulfill a dream seldom few attain. If White is able to walk all over the Rockets organization and still receive an olive branch, it may preview what is to come for the next rookie battling seasonal affect disorder, depression, or agoraphobia.
So Royce White does have a point. The league needs to address how to deal with player’s mental health and do so quickly. Otherwise future first round picks will be psyched to make a splash in the NBA, but it will based on a contract stating they don’t play when it rains out, they can be excused from practice if they are feeling a bit blue, and that fans must look away when they shoot because, you know… it causes a lot of anxiety.
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