When the Rockets took Iowa State’s Royce White in the first round of the NBA Draft last year, the potential was there for one of sports’ great feel-good stories. White, as you probably know by now, suffers from general anxiety disorder, and as chronicled in this video, it impacts his life in a major way. Here was a chance for White to make the bigtime – he’s got the talent to do it – and in the process help eradicate the societal stigmas that still surround anxiety issues. It was a role he seemed eager to take on, and the Rockets stood behind him.
And pretty much everything since then has gone wrong. White started missing practices. Writers started suggesting as gently as possible that White needed to change his approach to make his situation with the Rockets work, and White responded by attacking said writers. He refused D-League assignments. Fans lost patience. And finally, the Rockets suspended him. Every posible worst case scenario for White’s NBA career was coming true, which was sad not only for White but for anyone who might follow in his footsteps – White’s struggles would undoubtedly make it less likely for a team to take a chance on a prospect battling similar issues in the future.
Today, though, brings the first sign of hope in the Rockets-White saga in some time: White is nearing an agreement to report to the Rockets’ D-League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. This would be significant not only for signaling the reversal of White’s previous refusal to report, but for being the first positive development of any kind in the White-Rockets story in months.
Granted, it hasn’t actually happened yet (White said he’d be reporting to the D-League on February 11), and the person giving the details on this plan was White himself, but according to “a person with knowledge of the plan” cited by the Houston Chronicle, the plan is legit and centers around “a written agreement that includes key elements of the protocols that White wanted to have as an addendum to his contract.”
We really, really hope this sticks. The unhappy marriage between White and the Rockets served as one of this NBA season’s most dispiriting subplots, one that had taken enough negative turns that we didn’t expect a remotely happy conclusion. If White reports to the D-League, thereby beginning the fulfillment of his duties to the Rockets, while the Rockets fulfill their duty to place White in an environment where he’s able to succeed, that’s a big step in the right direction for everyone. February 11 is a ways off yet, but this report leaves us with more hope than we’ve had in a while that White and the Rockets may yet have a fruitful partnership.
Getty photo, by Chris Graythen