, was was acquired by the Sixers in July, has yet to play an NBA game. (Andrew Hancock/SI)
Royce White has earned public skepticism for missing his entire rookie season after clashing with the Rockets over treatment of his anxiety order. The 2012 first-round pick has made his objections clear about how professional sports teams approach mental health conditions and outlined his prerequisites for what he considers safe working conditions.
White, however, doesn't have the capital or the basketball appeal to create any kind of sweeping change, leaving him to work one-on-one with his current team, the Sixers, just as he did with the Rockets. That endeavor didn't go so well in Houston, and thus the notion persists that White could see the second hypothetical season of his NBA career scratched because of an inability to find common ground with the 76ers.
That pessimism won't be helped by this latest report out of Philadelphia, which can rather easily be categorized as an extension of White's prohibitive dynamic with NBA teams. According to Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News, White did not fly with the Sixers for their international preseason trip, which includes a game against an ACB League club in Spain on Sunday and another against the Thunder in England on Tuesday. The reported reason for his absence, though, seems more like a reasonable concession from the Sixers than a play by White:
White's fear of flying seems to be the most widely ridiculed aspect of his situation. NBA players spend countless hours zipping across the country on private jets, making the notion of an athlete deeply uncomfortable with flying a clear anomaly. Some fans find a punchline in that, but the Sixers clearly do not. While it's entirely too early to tell whether White might pan out to actually play basketball for Philadelphia this season, this initial move strikes me as something of a kindness -- an acknowledgement that having White for two preseason games in Europe probably isn't worth the stress of international air travel.
White to open mental health clinic in Houston
So White stays home. This doesn't have to be interpreted as the first stage of a repeat episode, though by some it inevitably will be. Again: White has done his share to earn that distrust. But there is some reason for optimism in that Philadelphia arranged to trade for White under the leadership of GM Sam Hinkie, who took part in the White experience as an assistant GM in Houston, and very much understands what he's getting himself into. The relationship between White and the Sixers could very easily go a different way -- there's simply work left to be done, and compromises on both sides still to be made. Troubling as it might seem, this could well be one of those concessions.