A year and a half after being drafted into the NBA by the Houston Rockets, former first round selection Royce White is on the outside looking in. The former Iowa State standout says he still wants to play in the NBA, but his anxiety disorder has prevented him from taking the court with either the Houston Rockets (and, after a trade, the Philadelphia 76ers) in a regular season setting. The teams have remained silent, while White has blamed his anxiety issues for the failure to cling to a team.
White hasn’t been specific in discussing the barriers (travel? Inability to work in a major pro setting? Communication anxiety with teammates and coaches?), while neither Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, or 76ers GM Sam Hinkie (who was with the Rockets when they drafted White in 2012) haven’t commented much about their various stalemates.
“I take some sort of pride that you could argue that Royce White is the worst first-round pick ever. He’s the only one that never played a minute in the NBA that wasn’t just a foreign guy staying in Europe. It just shows we swing for the fence,” Morey quipped.
You may not like the way Royce White handled his communication with both the Houston and Philadelphia front office. If his anxiety got in the way of performing basic basketball duties with a traveling team, then White never should have made himself eligible for the 2012 NBA draft. You may not like the allegations of domestic abuse hurled at him by a former girlfriend, and in something that is in no way comparable, you may not like the way he attempts to explain himself via Twitter. There is a lot to be not on Royce White’s side here, and above all Daryl Morey was making a self-deprecating joke about himself.
Even as Morey attempts to disarm critics and give himself a little dig, though, he’s still talking about White as if he were an asset, and not a person. Even if the attempt was to convey a little “hey, I screwed up, Rockets fans,” it still comes off as insensitive. Calling a person with a legitimate illness “the worst first round pick ever” is a major shot, and it’s especially galling when you factor in the knowledge that Royce White didn’t drink, snort, smoke, eat, or chuck his way out of an NBA career. You may not like some of the choices White has made in response to his anxiety disorder, but overall this affliction is not Royce White’s choice.
Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey is a good dude, and a great GM. He took a calculated risk on a talented player with lottery-level upside that would be working with a relatively cheap rookie contract for several years, and it didn’t pan out. Yes, Royce White was a first round pick from an American college that hasn’t played a regular season NBA minute yet, something struggling even top overall pick Anthony Bennett has in his favor.
Let’s not turn him into a punch line, though. A lot of this isn’t Royce White’s fault.
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