SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Royce White finally made his NBA debut Friday night, and the strangest thing happened.
No bright spotlight after all the attention of the last two seasons, no great expectations after entering the league as the No. 16 pick in 2012 with a unique skill set that intrigued front offices, no memorable moments after all the regrettable moments. Just a guy on a second 10-day contract going in for the last 56.1 seconds with his team about to lose by 20 points, hoping for the chance to show he deserves to be signed for the rest of what little remains of the season.
Friday night at Sleep Train Arena was about the Spurs extending their win streak to 12 despite shooting 38.7 percent in a 99-79 victory, not White getting on the court for the first time in a regular-season game as a member of his third team in the NBA, not to mention two in the D-League. This was not such a bad thing. After all the acrimony in his relationship with the Rockets, the team that drafted him as a 6-foot-8, 250-pounder who could cause matchup problems as a point forward, after being dumped on the 76ers in a trade and being cut before playing for Philadelphia, simple was fine.
And simple was what he got: 56 seconds and zeroes across the stat line after one practice and one shootaround with the Kings as coach Michael Malone gave White a quick run in advance of the longer looks that will surely come in the days ahead, starting Sunday against the Bucks at Sleep Train.
The important detail, White said, is that those days ahead will include next Friday at Oklahoma City. At Oklahoma City. He will be on the team charter, in other words, hoping to put to rest any uncertainty about whether anxiety issues and subsequent disagreements on treatment and how to handle difficulty with flying contributed to a contentious relationship with the Rockets.
White said he will be at every game if he is eventually signed for the rest of the season, with travel details to be worked out amid the possibility of being able to drive from OKC to Dallas, for example, for the back-to-back. Those are things that can be discussed if their arrangement becomes something more than the 10-day deal he signed March 6 to join the Kings’ D-League affiliate in Reno, followed by another 10-day on March 18.
One of the only things he knows for sure at this point is that it feels different than his season with the Rockets of disagreements over treatments and D-League stints with Rio Grande Valley that led nowhere.
“Oh, yeah,” White said. “It feels a lot different. In all fairness to Houston, they were in a much different position. A lot of things, they couldn’t make a ruling on themselves as much as the league. They had to wait on a lot of OKs and things from people. It was a real complex situation. But it feels very different. Everything’s different. The organization’s different, the city’s different, the people are different, my teammates are different.”
“Are you different?”
“I’m probably the least different out of the entire equation,” White said. “But I’m in a different place. I’m definitely feeling more comfortable with the ability to have a successful career in this league.”
He went unsigned for three-quarters of 2013-14 in a dramatic lack of interest for a first-round pick a season before, so White admits this could be his chance — ” Those thoughts do come where it’s like, ‘If this doesn’t work out, will I even go at it again?’ “
This is a very good place to start the comeback, though, or, really, start the start. The Kings need talent, White has that, and the Kings are in the unwanted perfect position at 24-45 to use the final three weeks to try out players and lineups.
Plus, they need him almost as much as he needs them. Sacramento is desperate for distributors, one of the reasons they will look at other point guards in the summer even if Isaiah Thomas is re-signed as a restricted free agent, as expected, and White’s draft stock was based largely on his passing ability from either forward spot. If DeMarcus Cousins is a scorer, Rudy Gay is a scorer and Thomas is a scorer, having someone at any position capable of delivering the ball would be welcome.
“The question was asked yesterday, ‘Is your hope that Royce’s playmaking ability, do you hope that’s contagious?’ ” Malone said. “Obviously you don’t want to be a team that is just a dribble, dribble, dribble, shoot and not pass to the open man. We want to be a team that’s hard to guard…. Having a guy out there that will make plays for his teammates and find the open man is always is a welcome sight for us.”
There was no chance in 56.1 seconds to see any of that Friday. But there was an appearance. It was a start, and after everything that has happened in two seasons, that was more than nothing.