Royce White, the first-round pick of the Houston Rockets, refused his assignment to Houston’s D-League the Rio Grande Valley Vipers on Sunday.
White’s rejection adds to lingering tension between him and the Rockets front office personnel. The rookie has not seen a single minute of playing time this season because both parties are trying to figure out a way to handle his anxiety disorder and overall mental health. White has spent most of the season on Houston’s inactive list.
In an attempt to move forward with White, the Rockets assigned him to play with Vipers on Saturday, but White responded on Sunday with a statement that he would not report to the team at all.
“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,” he said.
White’s absence started when he missed the first week of training camp with the Rockets after being selected as the 16th overall pick in the June draft. He missed that week to reach a mutual understanding with the Rockets to deal with his anxiety disorder within the rigorous travel schedule of the NBA. Both sides came to an agreement to let White travel on a bus to some games while he dealt with his fear of flying and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
He managed to fly to Detroit for the season opener against the Pistons. He then traveled by bus to the Atlanta and Memphis games. But shortly after, he quit participating in team activities and took to Twitter and explained dealing with his mental health issues were more important than his NBA career.
Despite the ongoing tension between White and the Rockets front office personnel, he is still hopeful that he will have a promising career in the NBA.
“I do wish to play, but I only intend to do so with the collaboration and recommendation of trained professionals,” White said. “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.”
In one season at Iowa State White led the Cyclones to their first tournament appearance in seven years. He averaged 13.4 points per game, 9.3 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.2 steals. Those numbers and his play is why the Rockets selected the 6-foot-8 power forward.
The Rockets are still hopeful that White will be able to return to the team, but after Sunday’s refusal the Rockets may have wasted a draft pick.