By Ben Golliver
Royce White and the Rockets are reportedly nearing a compromise in their stalemate over the treatment of his mental health that would allow the rookie forward to rejoin the team after a months-long absence.
The Houston Chronicle reports that the deal would include a protocol to govern his mental health treatment and that White told 97.9 FM, a Houston radio station, he could join the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, the Rockets' D-League affiliate, in less than three weeks.
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 agreement would not, however, give authority for decision-making to an individual outside the organization, as White wanted.
“The resolution, when I say we’re in the 12th hour, what I literally mean is we’re in the 12th hour .. .. any hour now this thing will be over,” White said. “I’m supposed to be returning to the D-league on February 11. That was the plan. We’ll see if it finally goes through but last thing I heard was that’s what we’re going to do, that’s what we’re planning to do. Waiting on everybody to get the right paperwork done and stuff."
White, the No. 16 pick in the 2012 NBA draft, has yet to play for the Rockets this season and has twice refused assignments to the Vipers this season. He stopped attending Rockets games and practices in November and was suspended in January.
On Tuesday, 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.
“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.