According to Jonathan Feigan of Ultimate Rockets, the team and White are reportedly close to reaching a mutual agreement that will allow him to return to the hardwood:
Rookie forward Royce White is close to returning to the Rockets and to reporting to their D-League affiliate.
In a call in to a morning show on 97.9 The Box, White said he plans to report to the D-League on Feb. 11, pending “paper work” on a plan with the team.
According to a person with knowledge of the plan, the Rockets are close to making an announcement in which White would return to the team under a written agreement that includes key elements of the protocols that White wanted to have as an addendum to his contract. That agreement would not, however, give authority for decision-making to an individual outside the organization, as White wanted.
Anyone who has followed the ongoing saga between White and the Rockets understands how big of a breakthrough this is.
For months, the rookie forward and Houston have stood at a tactical stalemate. White has publicly lashed out at the organization and the protocol taken to accommodate those with mental health issues in general. All the while, the Rockets have remained publicly supportive on their end but refused to admit any wrongdoing on their behalf.
Communications seemed to have broken down entirely when White created a blueprint for his return that he made public, one in which he reiterated the Rockets must make major concessions.
Though the presence of a proposed solution would normally help stifle the ambiguity plaguing this ordeal, the collective resentment for how the situation had been handled thus far suggested otherwise.
Somewhat surprisingly, it seems to have had the complete opposite effect.
For the first time all season, White himself (via Feigan) seems sure he's on the verge of joining his comrades:
White seemed optimistic that the agreement would be in place shortly.
“The resolution, when I say we’re in the 12th hour, what I literally mean is we’re in the 12th hour...any hour now this thing will be over,” White said. “I’m supposed to be returning to the D-league on February 11. That was the plan. We’ll see if it finally goes through but last thing I heard was that’s what we’re going to do, that’s what we’re planning to do. Waiting on everybody to get the right paperwork done and stuff.
“Everybody wants to make it seem like wild, wild west standoff between me and the Rockets. That’s not the case here. There has been an issue that’s been identified. Mental health is not descriptive enough in CBA (collective bargaining agreement) and UPC (uniform player contract.) It being so vague makes us make it up as we go. There’s no protocol. We need to rectify that to make sure the environment is safe. If we’re making it up as we go, that’s probably not the safest thing.”
While White attempts to downplay the gravity of what has taken place between him and the Houston organization, this is the first hint of true assurance we have detected from either party.
It's also the first we've actually heard of White making concessions of his own. Not only does he seem open to figuring the rest of the solution out on the fly, but he has backed down off his request that someone "outside the organization" be given the "authority" to decide whether he was fit to play.
Will Royce White's return to the Houston Rockets represent a breakthrough for the entire NBA?
That both White and the Rockets were willing to compromise and hash out a resolution figures to be a huge victory. Houston is the youngest team in the NBA and will welcome the presence of another versatile talent once White regains form in the D-League.
Most importantly, this represents a huge breakthrough in the barriers that exist between the Association and mental illness. White's case is an unprecedented one and for most of the year, this conflict was dissected in a manner that implied his career could be over before it even started.
With this recent news coming out of Houston, though, it seems more likely this is a tale destined for a happy ending—for White, the Rockets and the future of the NBA in general.