Former Iowa State star Royce White has been having a rough time adjusting to the NBA, and that's unfortunate for him, for Iowa State and for mental health advocates.
So, this happened last night. The Houston Rockets' staff decided to send Royce White down to the D-League on Tuesday, and Royce was NOT happy about it and unloaded a screed on the Twitterverse. That's understandable; Royce is a competitor and was looking forward to making an impact in the NBA this year. And he does have a valid point about a legitimate health concern needing to be recognized.
But here's the thing, Royce. You need to meet the Rockets halfway on this issue. Your anxiety issues can be dealt with, and it sounds like the Rockets have made a good faith effort to help you cope. They agreed to let you bus to some games to control your fear of flying. That's a pretty rare privilege to give to a NBA player, let alone a rookie.
So the Rockets have put forth a decent effort to help you deal with life in the NBA. And it's a good investment, since Houston has $3,364,920 invested in you for the next two years. And you have the talent to repay that contract many times over. But you're going about this completely the wrong way.
Look, it had to be hard to leave the comfortable bubble of Ames, IA. You carved out a solid niche in the community, became a legitimate star on and off the court and fully embraced the second chance that Iowa State gave you. The NBA is a completely different beast, with a higher level of competition on the court and in the locker room. At Iowa State, you had three other transfers in similar situations, a team full of guys pulling for the same goal and a coach and assistants ready and willing to support you. But the NBA? The NBA is fucking mercenary. You're gunning for your teammate's jobs in the NBA. Not a whole lot of support for you there.
There's no denying that you're an intelligent guy. There's no denying that you're a talented guy. But what you also happen to be is a guy in possession of a tremendous opportunity. You're a rookie in the NBA. That's rare enough. You're also a rookie in the NBA with an anxiety disorder that you've been open and honest about. You've often discussed your desire to raise awareness for people with mental illnesses like yours. That's an admirable goal.
The best way to raise awareness for mental health? Be as great as you can be in the league. Dominate. Prove that your disorder doesn't limit you in ways that people might assume it would.
The worst way to raise awareness for mental health? Show up to training camp out of shape. Miss the first week of training camp due to your anxiety disorder. Miss a game and several practices without telling anyone. This gives everyone who was ready to doubt you more ammunition.
And selfishly, Iowa State needs you to be great. ISU hasn't had a lot of high-profile NBA players in the past decade. Marcus Fizer flamed out after a few years with the Bulls. Craig Brackins never quite had the game for the NBA. Jamaal Tinsley is somehow still in the league, but the Pacers famously paid him not to play basketball for a few years. Other than Diante Garrett who just managed to claw his way onto the Phoenix Suns' roster, you're Iowa State's best hope for an NBA star for the next few years.
Let's not forget Fred Hoiberg's stake in all of this. A big part of Hoiberg's recruiting strategy is his connection with the NBA and his ability to send players to the league. Hoiberg made a pretty good pitch to his old coach Kevin McHale to take you in the first round of the draft this year. Right now, McHale's choice looks like it was the risky decision that forced every other NBA team to pass on you.
So please Royce, accept this decision and make it work. Dominate the shit out of the D-League. When you missed part of training camp, it put you behind the other rookies, but not far enough behind that you can't catch up with some hard work. Put in your time in the D-League, and you'll be called back up to the Rockets in no time. Otherwise, you risk losing everything you've worked for when you got your life back on track at Iowa State.