Until now—in the eyes of White himself at least.
On the heels of a letter written by Rockets general manager Daryl Morey being made public, White offered a blueprint for a solution of his own.
Per David Barron of Ultimate Rockets, White wants Houston to hire a doctor tasked with determining whether he is fit to play on a daily basis:
Suspended Rockets rookie forward Royce White has confirmed he wants the team to hire a physician — a “medical point person,” in his words — with authority to determine whether White’s generalized anxiety disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder will allow him to practice or play each day.
“I want a medical point person that will remain neutral and keep the interest in health,” White told Goldberg.
Asked if that meant the doctor could determine that White’s anxiety disorder would not allow him to play, for example, against the Lakers: “Then I can’t play against the Lakers,” he said.
White's latest sentiments hardly come as a surprise.
From Day 1, the forward's main concern has been his well-being, and he's made it abundantly clear that he won't put himself at risk for a paycheck. And even now, he continues to maintain said stance:
“Just like if your doc … if your orthopedist says, ‘Royce’s left toe has a crack in it and he shouldn’t run or jump against the Lakers tonight,’ then I can’t run or jump against the Lakers tonight.”
White said the only difference between his disorder and an orthopedic injury is “you can’t see mine. There’s no swelling, so to speak. It’s not purple.”
He said he is aware his demands could end his NBA career but said, “I’m not going to accept it without a fight.”
The way White has handled his situation thus far aside, his resolve is admirable. Unconventional though his request may be, this is the type of constructive approach we would have liked to see from the beginning.
Teams have physicians to determine whether injured players are fit for duty, so why not have one that does the same for mentally ill athletes? That's not an unreasonable request at all.
White's demeanor in some instances, however, is:
During the interview, White, 21, acknowledged not showing up for practice or games but said each absence was because of a medical reason.
“I’m sure they wouldn’t want to hear that James Harden broke his ankle, either,” he said. “But there’s a health reality that exists.”
Neither HBO nor White addressed the fact that injured players are required to be on hand at the team’s discretion for therapy or practice and can be fined if they do not comply.
If he played or practiced without the protocols, which he has said he will not do, White said, “I would be risking my life."
Personal safety must come first, so I wouldn't expect, nor do I believe the Rockets would ever expect, White to put himself in danger for the "better" of the team.
That said, why must White continue to make the waves he has? Comparing his illness to Harden injuring his ankle really isn't fair. I'm sure he wouldn't stand for it if the roles were reversed. How would he react if Houston compared a Harden or Jeremy Lin injury to his illness?
The way he attempted to draw a comparison here almost belittles physical injury, or rather, mocks it. I wouldn't want anyone to downplay what White is going through, just like I don't want him to deemphasize the importance of a teammate's bodily health.
Do I think that was his intention?
Absolutely not. White's hopes are anything but malignant; you can tell he wants to make this right. But he continues to struggle with his etiquette.
Why does everything have to be an ultimatum? Why have the Rockets seemingly become the enemy of all this?
Again, I am an advocate of White's ultimate cause, but I'm not a fan of the way he's made basketball an afterthought. He has to understand that Houston wants him on the court, and I'd like to see him offer at least the slightest inclination he's determined to get back on the hardwood.
But do you know what I want most?
For the Rockets and White to remove the cargo of middle men that have been put between them:
HBO said the Rockets did not allow team executives to be interviewed for the story. In addition to White, the segment features Michael McCann, an expert on sports law who teaches at the University of New Hampshire, who said White is a “pioneer” in attempting to test a professional league’s oversight of an athlete facing mental health issues.
McCann said White’s request for a medical point person and binding medical protocols “opens the door for the team to lose control over its most important quality, which is the ability to play players in a way that makes sense for the team.”
“The Rockets could say, look, we could have this neutral physician as part of the conversation, having influence, having input; that might be reasonable,” McCann said. “Having this person be the final decision-maker, or the only decision-maker, is not reasonable.”
Why are we reading letters and awaiting separate interviews when we should be reading about the parties involved communicating directly?
White and the Rockets need to be sitting down face-to-face, every day until this conflict reaches a resolution, even if that resolution dictates that they part ways. I'd actually view White's willingness to set some guidelines behind his potential return as a breakthrough if it wasn't revealed in such a destructive manner.
As such, what is still transpiring between Houston and White is beyond tragic.
Here we have the youngest team in the NBA, one that can provide a promising talent with an abundance of playing time, yet it has been unable to hash anything out.
Until that changes, White's "solution" to the sensitive quandary at hand will serve as nothing more than yet another deterrent in what now has the potential to become a case of what will never be.