Posted January 07, 2013

Rockets suspend White after second refusal of D-League assignment

Ben Golliver, Daryl Morey, Houston Rockets, Royce White
royce-white-rockets

Royce White has been suspended by the Rockets. (Fernando Medina/Getty Images)

By Ben Golliver

The Rockets announced Sunday that rookie forward Royce White has been suspended one week after he refused an assignment to the D-League’s Rio Grande Valley Vipers for the second time this season.

“The Houston Rockets have suspended Royce White effective immediately for refusing to provide services as required by his Uniform Player Contract,” Rockets GM Daryl Morey said in a statement. “We will continue to work with Royce to hopefully come to a resolution.”

The Rockets and White, the No. 16 pick in the 2012 draft, have been engaged in a months-long dispute over the treatment of his anxiety disorder. White has yet to appear in a game this season and has not traveled with the team for weeks. Training camp opened with the player and team attempting to fashion what the rookie forward called a “good faith deal” to help manage his transition to the NBA, as his anxiety disorder makes it difficult for him to fly. Shortly after the Rockets previously attempted to assign White to the Vipers in November, he stopped showing up to practices and games and repeatedly expressed frustration on his Twitter account with the team’s handling of his generalized anxiety disorder.

White responded to the suspension in a string of messages on his @Highway_30 verified Twitter account Sunday.

“What’s suspending me [supposed] to do? I’ve been away from the team for a month [and a half]. Guess we want to give it a title to shift accountability. Threat, fines, suspension won’t deter me. I won’t accept illogical health decisions, I will keep asking for safety and health.

Again the Houston Rockets management has gone against what THEIR OWN [doctors] have declared and their own words.

[I'm] not refusing D League. I’m refusing to work, AT ALL, until a protocol is put in that ensures safety. Doctors should make medical decisions. Undeniably UNSAFE FOR ANY PLAYER when management has executive authority in medical situations. Conflict of Interest, Health vs. Business

Last week, White called his D-League assignment “unsafe” because he does not believe the Rockets’ front office should supersede medical advice in their treatment of him.

“I have chosen to not play, because the doctors and I believe it to be unsafe for unqualified Rockets front office personnel to make medical decisions, as they are not mental health professionals,” White said in a statement last week.

He also gave a radio interview this week in which he repeated his desire for a medical protocol that would allows doctors to have “executive authority in medical situations regarding mental health” rather than team executives like Morey.

White’s statement last week also asserted that the Rockets are not “adhering to medical sensibility” in their treatment of him and implies that the Rockets’ handling of him isn’t being undertaken with his best medical interests in mind.

In hindsight of the recent tragedies in this country, that had mental illness variables, you would think it would encourage people to act more proactively in that arena. You would think that decision makers who are not well informed about mental health, would take the consultation and recommendation of those who are. You would think we would start to do everything possible to not let the tragic consequences befall us first, before we ask the logical question, “why?”, “who knew?” “how could we have helped?. Why not take a proactive approach of “who knows?” “how can we listen?”, “how can we support now?”

I do wish to play, but I only intend to do so with the collaboration and recommendation of trained professionals. The purpose of a doctor’s confirmation is to ensure that health decisions are made in the sole interest of health and not conflicted with business. My only hope is that decision makers involved realize that doctors are the only logical source to decide action.

There is an admitted lack of knowledge on behalf of the Rockets and the NBA, it becomes transparent as they choose to forego the knowledge of trained professionals and make independent decisions for something as complex as mental health without consulting any doctors. The Rockets have told me in recent conversations that it is their right to decline even their own doctors’ recommendations. The concept of not listening to medical consultants in medical situations is alarming. It is also alarming that a player is susceptible to fines for simply adhering to the recommendation of doctors.

White continued by saying that it would be “fundamentally incorrect” to say that the Rockets have supported him and that their representation of the situation has been “extremely misleading” and “totally inaccurate.” White made similar statements after he initially left the Rockets in November.

The Rockets have generally avoided responding directly to White’s statements, though some fans and observers were critical of his statements.  Back in November, the Houston Chronicle reported that owner Leslie Alexander seemed to hint that White’s future with the team could be in jeopardy.

“That’s tenuous,” Alexander said. “It’s tough to talk about something like that. I think we’re going to handle it internally. If he doesn’t work out, well, it’s tough to lose a draft choice.”

The Houston Chronicle also reported that the Rockets fined White for missing mandated therapy sessions.

Why suspend White now? Well, as White noted, accountability is likely at the heart of the decision. Formally assigning White to the D-League and then suspending him when he did not report makes it “official” that the Rockets believe they have taken sufficient steps to work with White and that White is shirking his responsibilities. There’s an implied message here too: The Rockets surely wouldn’t suspend a player for not playing if they honestly agreed with the notion that asking him to play was unsafe. If Houston was on board with White’s read of the situation, they could simply continue to allow him to remain away from the team while they worked towards a resolution. A suspension not only “shifts accountability” it shifts the Rockets to a more confrontational public position. If they allowed White to remain away from the team, the Rockets could have been seen as tacitly agreeing — or at least not disagreeing — with his philosophical approach to their internal decision-making process on medical decisions. No more.

This delicate stalemate has dragged on and on and, as The Point Forward recently noted, the Rockets have reached a point where they felt they had to take a different approach. We’ve written multiple times here at the Point Forward that the easiest solution would be for White to report to the Vipers, as the travel demands there are significantly lighter and playing time should be plentiful. Of course, given White’s disorder and his fundamental desire to reshape the medical protocol used by his organization, that assessment was much easier said than done.

White, 21, signed a rookie contract in July that will pay him $1.6 million this season and $1.9 million in 2013-14. Both years are fully guaranteed.

33 comments
rukiddingme
rukiddingme

What has HE done to try to improve HIS situation (besides criticize Rockets' management)?  Sounds like he took this job knowing he couldn't fulfill his obligations to the team.  It's idiotic to suggest he didn't know that his job as a professional athlete would involve some air travel.  And if he did, and if he signed the contract anyway, that's on him.  HE is the one breaching their contract, and they (the Rockets") just need to go ahead and cut their losses.  The guy has given them exactly nothing so far so whatever he has been paid was too much.

Dan30
Dan30

No report has yet asked or published what his specific demands are. What are they? Every time the subject comes up he swings the response to general terms or general statements. What does Royce White specifically need from the Rockets and what are they, and what aren't they providing? This is worse than political rhetoric...

Cycledoc
Cycledoc

It's clear he wants to play for someone else....How he is orchestrating this is quite unique.

ctron
ctron

plain and simple, he will need a 9 to 5 job he can walk to. he thought he could drive to games-a joke

JeremyHilbillyLove
JeremyHilbillyLove

I would have more sympathy for this cat if he was being treated this way buy a normal business. Dude you wanted to play in the NBA you knew they fly from city to city, if this  anxiety disorder makes it difficult for you to fly why did you go into a career that requires you to fly around the country for several months of the year?

BryanCustard
BryanCustard

My only issue with the whole Royce White thing is simply this-everything being reported is incredibly vague and generalized statements about the Rockets mistreating him. If they are mistreating him then how? What is the situation really between him and the team, because right now it sounds like a they don't treat me right/he won't play us playground argument. I would really like (and many others too) to have some clarity on what exactly is going on between White and the team before any judgments are made.

 

BTW- Being completely insensitive about mental anxiety and other forms of mental disorder will earn you a first class ticket to karma hell, keep not believing in it, but don't question anybody when you get hit by a bus :)

Michael99
Michael99

If he has $3.5 million guaranteed for this year and next year, he has no mental problem. $3.5 million and never step onto the hardwood......entirely brilliant!

Cu
Cu

White's intransigence hurts only him while it affords others advantages.  Others get playing time, Rockets players don't have to deal with his daily drama, no games will be cancelled, and fans pretty happy at the games. Thanks...White 

John4
John4

While I do not blame White for his anxiety disorder, (because that would be idiotic), it does not appear that a solution can be reached between White and the Houston Rockets.  Houston plays 82 games per year (plus preseason and playoffs) and players MUST fly from city to city (due to time contraints of travelling by car, train or bus) and Royce White cannot (due to his anxiety disorder).  The Rockets knew all about his anxiety disorder and drafted him #16 anyway.  He's not a bad player, and to be as clear as possible, the D-League will do NOTHING to solve his anxiety disorder issues.  So why assign him to the D-League?  Punishment?  Players fail to be successful in the NBA for a large variety of reasons.  It appears, at this time, that Royce White will not be able to be successful as an NBA player due to an anxiety disorder.  Assigning him to the D-League does nothing to change that.  

Also, for those of you who do not suffer from a from of anxiety disorder, that's great.  However, a little understanding and empathy of Royce White's issue would be a good thing?  Do you REALLY think he wants to miss out on playing in the NBA?  Of course not.  NBA players have AWESOME lives.  

BrownLanet
BrownLanet

He suffers from a mental ailment alright, but it's retardation, not anxiety disorder.

Cu
Cu

White's systemic instability was always glaring. This can't be managed or cured by athletic skills or overindulging him. What he demands is frankly, silly....like a bus driver with major driving phobia expecting to keep his/her job.

eddie577
eddie577

If he really means what he says, the he should void his contract with the Rockets and retire. I am sure that when he is really to play someone will sign him.

Hoss
Hoss

 @Michael99

 It's not guaranteed if you breach the contract.

NVP
NVP

 @Michael99 not really, he's being fined and will continued to be fined, he really doesn't have much of a ground appeal the fines

Dan30
Dan30

I would believe that if McHale actually had more than a 9 man rotation. Houston gets hyped up about the new draft picks and never get to see them play.

NVP
NVP

 @John4 Assigning him to the d-league has nothing to do with his anxiety disorder, rather it is to further his professional development. Rockets and the Viper has a long standing relationship that develop several of their high draft picks. Marcus Morris for example, spent the majority of his rookie year in the D-league. It is some what of a un-official  protocol the rockets has in place, Ever since their partnership with the Viper, They've sent rookies that's unlikely to get playing time down to the D-league for playing time and system, as Vipers run the same system as the Rockets. Patrick Patterson, Aaron Brooks, Marcus Morris, all went as first round picks. 

pcwhite2
pcwhite2

 @John4 

John4, based on your comments above and below, you either have a mental illness or know someone who does.  I appreciate your defense of what Royce may dealing with.  

 

However, what I see in Royce is grandstanding, as if his actual duties involve creating some type of new protocol for dealing with mental disorders in NBA players. In truth, his duties are to put himself in a physical and psychological position into to fulfill his contract.  I believe he is not fulling the emotional aspect of his job duties.  

 

Given his personal knowledge of his anxiety disorder and how that would obviously impact his NBA career, I do not believe Royce White ever intended on playing professional basketball, because he knew he couldn't do it, no matter what accommodations his team made for him.  I believe he will pocket his approximately 2 million (after taxes and agent fees), go back to school, and eventually become a psychologist.  

uncledrew
uncledrew

 @John4 agree with everything you've said youngblood... unless you have anxiety you really dont know what it is, and how it can impact your life...

John4
John4

 @BrownLanet Brown - you have NO idea about Royce White's mental state.  He is not retarded, he has an anxiety disorder which appears to be beyond your level of comprehension.

 

Also, congratulations - you win the prize for idiotic comment of the day.  Well done.  

Cu
Cu

 @BrownLanet

 He's not retarded, just over indulged. One thing for sure; the private doctors have done a major dis-service to him.

John4
John4

 @NVP  NVP - The D-League assignment is not the issue.  Royce White has an anxiety disorder for flying.  It doesn't matter if he is a D League player or an NBA player, he cannot fly.  My comment is that that Rockets should be addressing the issue.  Royce's playing or not playing in the D League is not the issue, his anxiety disorder is the issue.  That has to be corrected.  

John4
John4

 @pcwhite2 pc - yes,  no disrespect to you at all.  If Rovce's plan was to pocket a few million KNOWING he could not fly as required for NBA play, then shame on him.  Of course the Rockets could have done a better job of scouting him.

That brings me to the most important question:  Did Royce fly while at Iowa State (and how could he have played WITHOUT flying?) then why can't he NOW?  

John4
John4

 @Cu  Cu - you have NO IDEA what his doctors have done.  You cannot state whether or not is a major disservice.  You know nothing about the treatment he received or is receiving.  You have only done an excellent job in announcing your stupidity.  Congratulations.  

Cu
Cu

 @BrownLanet  @eddie577

 ......and there are way too many other options for the Rockets to access. The Rockets franchise doens't rise and fall on White.

Senorglory
Senorglory

John4, I fear that if I reply to your reply, you'll be compelled to reply back, and this will never end.

NVP
NVP

 @John4 He's time and time again insisted that flying is not the issue, so unless you've not been as update on his situation, it seems not to be at the core of the issue. You asked  why assign him to the D-League? it's suppose to make him a better NBA player, like it did with other rocket player. Your employer has no responsibility to cure you of your medical issues, they are required t provide you reasonable accommodation. If you are severely hydrophobic, the pool bears no responsibility to accommodate you if you seek to be a lifeguard. The nature of the job cannot allow them to do so. Personal decisions cannot be made by someone not responsible for those decision. Management are hired to make decisions in the best interest of the company, they seek counsel and recommendation to make the best decision for all parties, but it is their job make the decision. What he seeks is a conflict of interest, and something that the team cannot possibly accommodate.

 

if he's unwilling to compromise at all, then the only logical conclusion is that he did not research well enough into his chosen profession, and it is impossible for him to be a NBA player 

John4
John4

 @Senorglory  Senor glory - White has said (in this article) that he will not take part in any activity until his anxiety order is addressed by doctors, and not team management.  

Senorglory
Senorglory

@John4 @NVP Royce's refusal to report for duty is the issue. He's not showing for practice or games.

John4
John4

 @Cu Dr. Cu - Yes, you are clearly right.  It's not an anxiety disorder, it's a "quack", according again to Dr. Cu.  Dr. Cu - are you a quack doctor?  Do you have any idea what you're talking about, because it appears that you do not. If I am wrong, Dr. Cu, please clarify.  

Cu
Cu

 @John4  @Cu

 Look at the situation; it reflects I'm indeed correct. Bottom line; as long as White hangs on to these quacks, he'll remain just where he is or worse. You on the other hand, believe that just because White has shown some talent, it makes him fit, stable, and qualified. It's plain to see that you're the one who doesn't what you're talking about.  

John4
John4

 @Cu Cu - Or is that "Dr. Cu"?  How about this:  White fires his doctors and hires you to treat his anxiety disorder.  You ARE a doctor, correct?  No?  Then how the EFF can you comment on his treatment?  You can't.  Go back to the basement and continue your D&D game.  

Cu
Cu

 @John4

 Oh yes I do have an idea. General Practitioners are NOT qualified to manage mental health issues. This is the first sign of proof that there's been a major dis-service. His so called "private" team should be encouraging his compliance and accessing qualified mental health care providers. They're only thinking about themselves because if White is treated by a qualified mental health provider, his private docs will no longer get paid.