HOUSTON — Royce White has said he was not AWOL. He has said via Twitter that he is being fined $15,000 a day by the Rockets. He has said on his Twitter account that the Rockets were “inconsistent” in helping him. He tweeted several days ago that his employers were “low,” though that comment was eventually deleted from his timeline.
White reportedly told ESPN that he was willing to walk away from his NBA career. Then, a short time later, he backtracked a bit with another tweet:
“I’m not PLANNING to quit, but it if its between my HEALTH and BASKETBALL, health takes precedence.”
The point is, White has said a lot of different things since he left the Rockets following a game a week ago in Memphis, none of which would seem to be helping his cause as an NBA player or a would-be spokesman for those suffering from anxiety disorder.
Taken with the No. 16 pick in last June’s draft, the 6-foot-8 forward with the well-known condition was seen as either a bold gamble or the foolish waste of a valuable first-round choice by many around the league.
Rockets general manager Daryl Morey had to overrule advice against making the pick even from inside his own war room on draft night, but he believed White possessed the talent of a top five pick and was worth the gamble. Now that roll of the dice has the Rockets playing defense in a scenario that began with them holding out the only career lifeline.
Since that time, several NBA executives have said that if not for the Rockets, White might not have been drafted at all and never given his platform, which has been helpful in spreading awareness of mental health issues and hindrance to, it would seem, his own mental health.
White’s often stream-of-consciousness dialogue on Twitter has elicited both heart-felt support and vicious condemnation and has done little to close the breach that he has created between himself and the only NBA team that was willing to reach out to him.
From the beginning, the Rockets have been supportive of White’s needs and desires, renegotiating his contract in order to provide cars and RVs and drivers for road trips, due to his well-known fear of flying. They have provided him with even members of their staff to ride along as companions, and yet even that has led to this standoff.
White has claimed on Twitter that he is not AWOL, yet he fits the very definition of the acronym — Absent With Out Leave. The Rockets have been fining him for every day he misses practices and games, and also for not consulting with a mental health professional they have chosen.
He is certainly not the first rookie to try to talk his way into playing time, but suggesting that it would lower his anxiety and help his condition is pushing at the envelope.
White has said the media has misrepresented his side of the story and omitted facts, yet his only statements have been on Twitter. His latest on Friday evening:
“NBA might be a dream come true, but being UNHEALTHY isn’t, people will know I stood up for myself and what’s right. #NeverABadTime”
Whatever that is. Whatever he thinks that is.
He has a problem, a very real problem that is shared by millions all over the globe, and is very brave to talk about it openly. He can be a symbol of hope at the same time that he is a lightning rod for criticism.
However, this was never going to be an easy road, and Royce White keeps making it harder on himself.