Royce White, during an NBA photoshoot in August (Getty Images)
The quickest snapshot of Royce White's self-described "mental illness" is his disclosure of a fear of flying. His anxiety issues run much deeper than that, but it appears that the most mainstream of White's problems is well on its way toward getting that most mainstream of solutions: White is attempting to take a bus to and from select Rockets games this season.
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"What it's going to look like is every game that's drivable, I'm going to get a bus for myself," White said. "And I'm going to make that bus feel like home so that there's a level of consistency in a job where inconsistency is very apparent because of the schedule. I'm going to try and level that out and make sure that my stress levels stay low and that my rest is regular and that my meals are regular and that as much as I can, draw consistency from a very inconsistent schedule. ...
"People with mental illness, one of the most important things is that they have that consistency and routine. The girth of (my request) was, 'Can I travel by bus to close enough games?' "
Two things stand out, should the Rockets find a way to aid White with this request.
He's in a good place to start, literally. Texas' geographic expanse is enormous, but White is within reasonable busing distance for the team's four road games against the San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks, and four other contests with the New Orleans Hornets and Oklahoma City Thunder.
Secondly? That's about it. Eight drivable road games out of 40, hardly a panacea on four wheels.
Even that, sadly, is pushing it.
In looking at the team's schedule, three of the road games listed above come on the second night of back-to-backs, which would preclude White's trip as the Rockets fly from another city outside of Houston. And while there could be other local trips to consider (Chicago to Minnesota, or Brooklyn to Washington), even those would be a stretch as the second game comes on the second night of a back-to-back.
And that's not even getting into the team's shootarounds, film sessions and walk-throughs White would miss. It's barely a solution even if the Rockets develop a second set of rules for White.
This isn't to say the team should decline to develop a second set of rules. They have to, much in the same way the Chicago Bulls are allowing Derrick Rose space away from the team in order to rehab his torn ACL, or when the Los Angeles Lakers allow Kobe Bryant's aching knee to sit out a practice, or when they afforded coach Phil Jackson a special chair to ease the strain on his surgically repaired back.
We're hardly relating those relatively minor maladies to White's condition, but that is the bottom line that fans (and the Rockets, we hope) have to understand. This is something that needs to be treated, and it's never something you "get used to."
Most travelers have had that one-in-10 flight where, irrespective of your flying history or the statistical flight risks in your favor, the fears just get out of hand. White not only has those fears for every flight, he has that sinking, world-ending feeling "just" walking into a room full of people. I put "just" in quotation marks because it might feel like a "just" to some, and the most miserable thing in the world to those who suffer from anxiety.
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Which is a long way of saying that the bus trips, even if the Rockets can find a way to make it work, are just one small step toward determining if his anxiety issues are going to cripple what is a promising NBA career.
In the interim, I can't recall the last time I rooted for a player this strongly.
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