By Ben Golliver
Royce White, recently reinstated after a months-long dispute with Houston's management over the treatment of his mental health, said this week that he believes the NBA and the Rockets would prefer to move on without him.
In a video interview with The Huffington Post, White, who was recently assigned to the Rockets' D-League affiliate, explained his reasoning, citing his independent voice and the inefficiency of properly treating players with mental health conditions.
"I went through the bumps and bruises of having to advocate for myself against a billion-dollar corporation. Other than that, I think I've actually been successful, if you look at the rate of success, or what could have went wrong. I could have easily been out of the league or blackballed or things like that. But that hasn't happened yet...
"I'm a problem because I'm not afraid to say what I think and I'm not afraid to stand alone. Even amongst the NBA community, the players, the union, the NBA office, and [commissioner] David Stern and [deputy commissioner] Adam Silver. I'm not afraid to stand alone in my own circle, and say, hey listen, you guys aren't respecting mental health...
"If I was to make an educated guess, I would guess that Adam Silver and David Stern and the Rockets organization, some other owners in the league, GMs, want me gone. And why do they want me gone? Because business is about convenience, it's not about doing what's necessary, right? It's about cutting overhead... Being efficient. And a lot of times, what's best for us as human beings doesn't meet that criteria for business people."
The Rockets and White issued a joint statement in late-January announcing that White has been reinstated following a suspension that was imposed on Jan. 6 and he reported to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in February, where he's averaging 9.6 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.3 assists in 12 games. He has not yet been called up to the Rockets.
The joint statement read: “The Houston Rockets and Royce White have today reached an agreement that addresses the major issues that they have been discussing, provides a new start, and gives Royce the best opportunity for long term success as a Houston Rocket. This has been a learning process for both parties. The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association have approved the settlement. Royce is no longer suspended and is re-instated effective immediately. He will report to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers on February 11, 2013.”
The Houston Chronicle reported that the agreement included specific protocols for treating his mental health that he had requested.
The No. 16 pick in the 2012 NBA draft twice refused assignments to the Vipers earlier this season. Back in November, he stopped attending Rockets games and practices and he remained away from the organization until he joined the Vipers last month.
In January, HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel aired a feature on White, in which he called for a formalized protocol to handle his mental health treatment, as he suffers from Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, panic attacks and a fear of flying. White also sought the appointment of an independent doctor — “a medical point person” — who would make the determination on whether or not he would be cleared to play.
To HBO, White painted the mental health protocol as a matter of life and death, saying that he was prepared to walk away from his NBA career if it came to that.
“If I was an NBA player now without the protocols and safety measures,” he said, “I would be risking my health, risking my life. What comes along with mental health if left untreated? Alcohol abuse, marijuana abuse, suicidal behavior, homicidal behavior, those are things I’m not willing to risk to play basketball, to have money, to have fame. That’s it.”
With his doctor, White drafted a protocol that included an “acknowledgement” that “mental illness/disability as being in the category of medical condition,” meaning any absences resulting from mental health issues would be treated like an injury.
“If your orthopedist says Royce’s left toe has a crack in it, he shouldn’t run or jump against the Lakers tonight, you can’t run or jump against the Lakers tonight,” White told HBO. “The only difference is you can’t see mine. There’s no swelling, so to speak. It’s not purple.”
In a November letter to White revealed during the HBO feature, Rockets GM Daryl Morey expressed a desire to accommodate White’s requests but also some frustration with his absence. “We have bent over backwards to accommodate your requests and help you meet these goals,” the letter read. “At our meeting yesterday, I spent significant time addressing your frustrations. I would like to take this opportunity to further explain how your actions and the changing nature of your explanations for your actions has frustrated our attempts to help you meet your goals. The bottom line is that we remain willing to work with you on issues that arise from legitimate medical need, but you have to come to games, practice and everything else that you are able to do, just like any other player.”