Last Monday, the Rockets decided to send rookie Royce White to their D-League affiliate. That was the story anyway. White was actually already not with the Rockets, apparently upset with the organization for failing to live up to its promises in accomodating his anxiety disorder.
White has asked Houston to give him permission not to fly on the team's plane to road games and follow the team around on a bus. He has a severe fear of flying and Houston promised to work with him so both can be successful. But obviously, not being able to fly in the NBA with an 82-game schedule that sees teams criss-cross the country is going to be hard to do. Especially when you factor in practices and team building that occurs on those long, early-morning plane rides.
The relationship broke down last week and the finger pointing it seems began as White has yet to appear in a regular season game and was absent from the team for a good portion of the last two weeks.
In hindsight, perhaps it was not a good idea to be open and honest about my anxiety disorder – due to the current situations at hand that involve the nature of actions from the Houston Rockets. As a rookie, I want to settle into a team and make progress; but since preseason the Rockets have been inconsistent with their agreement to proactively create a healthy and successful relationship.
At this point, the Rockets are aware of my position and the reason for my absence. Any other response is inaccurate. This is important to me. it is a health issue. I must advocate for my rights. it is a player-commodity league. The failure to meet my requests for support will end with me being unhealthy and that is not a consequence that I am willing to accept to play any sport.
This came before White took to Twitter and tried to defend his position and blame the Rockets for their failures in accommodating his anxiety and assisting him in his career. The Rockets remained pretty quiet about the situation until then, when it became clear White was blaming the Rockets for their role in the deteriorating relationship.
White then took to Twitter in an effort to explain his trouble to the sometimes-vicious responses from the public on Twitter. White has been defending himself nonstop since the news broke last week:
White and the Rockets though appear to be doing something to improve the situation. White is set to meet with Rockets general manager Daryl Morey in the coming days to devise a new plan whereby White can be with the team and the team can support White as he copes with his anxiety problems and obsessive compulsive disorder that cause his severe fear of flying.
One of those changes may be White being allowed to see his personal therapist rather than the one the Rockets appointed and perhaps a cessation of fines for being away from the team since Nov. 9. There is real hope that the two can work this out and White can begin his NBA career.
It is vitally important though that White show some flexibility to get done. It is a fair criticism of him that he has not handled this situation professionally. Basketball is a job now for him and not a game. Just disappearing from the team has consequences.
No one doubts that White's problems are very real. And he should be applauded for coming forward in a society that is still a little uncomfortable with mental disabilities and anxiety disorders — particularly a sports world where machoism is valued above everything else — but it cannot be used as an excuse to not show up for work.
The public certainly does not know all the details. It is hard to make any final judgment on who is right and who is wrong. Both sides have probably messed up and the feelings are probably warranted.
The Rockets though made the investment on White and need to continue supporting him and helping him. This is uncharted waters for an NBA team and they are setting policy. They need to work with White and find the best way to help him, because ultimately it will help the organization to do so.
Many teams in the NBA were not willing to take on this responsibility. The Rockets were. And they have to take that responsibility on and not force White to do anything he is incapable of doing. Yes, White has a job to do. And White has to show up and do that job to the best of his abilities.
Ultimately though, this is just basketball. There are more important issues at stake for White.