By Ben Golliver
The Rockets assigned Royce White to their D-League for the second time this season on Saturday. Less than 24 hours later, the rookie forward has refused to report to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers for the second time.
"I have chosen to not play, because the doctors and I believe it to be unsafe for unqualified Rockets front office personnel to make medical decisions, as they are not mental health professionals," White said in a statement released on Sunday and obtained by the Houston Chronicle.
The Rockets and White, the No. 16 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, have been engaged in a months-long dispute over the treatment of his anxiety disorder. White has yet to appear in a game this season and has not traveled with the team for weeks. Training camp opened with the player and team attempting to fashion what the rookie forward called a “good faith deal” to help manage his transition to the NBA, as his anxiety disorder makes it difficult for him to fly on airplanes. Shortly after the Rockets previously attempted to assign White to the Vipers in November, the 2012 first-round pick stopped showing up to practices and games and repeatedly expressed frustration with the team’s handling of his generalized anxiety disorder on his Twitter account.
White's latest statement asserts that the Rockets are not "adhering to medical sensibility" in their treatment of him and implies that the Rockets' handling of him isn't being undertaken with his best medical interests in mind.
In hindsight of the recent tragedies in this country, that had mental illness variables, you would think it would encourage people to act more proactively in that arena. You would think that decision makers who are not well informed about mental health, would take the consultation and recommendation of those who are. You would think we would start to do everything possible to not let the tragic consequences befall us first, before we ask the logical question, “why?”, “who knew?” “how could we have helped?. Why not take a proactive approach of “who knows?” “how can we listen?”, “how can we support now?”
I do wish to play, but I only intend to do so with the collaboration and recommendation of trained professionals. The purpose of a doctor’s confirmation is to ensure that health decisions are made in the sole interest of health and not conflicted with business. My only hope is that decision makers involved realize that doctors are the only logical source to decide action.
There is an admitted lack of knowledge on behalf of the Rockets and the NBA, it becomes transparent as they choose to forego the knowledge of trained professionals and make independent decisions for something as complex as mental health without consulting any doctors. The Rockets have told me in recent conversations that it is their right to decline even their own doctors’ recommendations. The concept of not listening to medical consultants in medical situations is alarming. It is also alarming that a player is susceptible to fines for simply adhering to the recommendation of doctors.
White continues by saying that it would be "fundamentally incorrect" to say that the Rockets have supported him and that their representation of the situation has been "extremely misleading" and "totally inaccurate."
This statement repeats a number of claims made in November, when he publicly questioned the team’s commitment to the terms of a deal that made accommodations for his travel needs, but is a bit stronger in tone.
“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.”
On his verified Twitter account, @Highway_30, White wrote in November that he is “most [definitely] not AWOL” and that there are “many things [people] don’t know. Honesty is what I’m sticking with.” He also said that his “problem” with the Rockets dated to “WAY before” the team decided to assign him to the D-League in November. He also provided a little clarity of the nature of his issues with the Rockets.
While anxiety is the issue, the main piece of that isn’t AIRPLANES, it’s asking for support [for] my disorder that’s consistent and fair. Again My “Anxiety” is not well but not BAD, my main WORRY is being treated as a digit instead of a HUMAN, in the case of my health.
White also repeatedly cited the Bible verse, Luke 12:3, which stresses the importance of honesty.
Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.
The Rockets have generally avoided responding directly to White’s statements, though some fans and observers were critical of his statements. The Houston Chronicle reported at the time that GM Daryl Morey said only that White was “not available right now” but that owner Leslie Alexander seemed to hint that White’s future with the team could be in jeopardy.
“That’s tenuous,” Alexander said. “It’s tough to talk about something like that. I think we’re going to handle it internally. If he doesn’t work out, well, it’s tough to lose a draft choice.”
The Houston Chronicle also reported that the Rockets fined White for missing mandated therapy sessions.
In November, we wrote here at the Point Forward that the easiest solution was for White to report to the Vipers, as the travel demands there are significantly lighter and playing time should be plentiful. Of course, given White’s condition, that assessment was much easier said than done. White, 21, signed a rookie contract in July that will pay him $1.6 million this season and $1.9 million in 2013-14. Both years are fully guaranteed.