The Houston Rockets haven't gotten much of a return on their investment in first-round pick Royce White, mainly because he feels that the organization has not adequately met his needs to treat his mental illness.
But White has to put in more work himself on the court to even break into the NBA in the first place. Mired in a stint with the Developmental League's Rio Grande Valley Vipers, reports indicate that White is out of shape.
NBA analyst Ric Bucher has the update on White, citing sources close to the Rockets' D-League affiliate: "Whatever Rockets PF Royce White has been doing the last few months while working out mental-health protocol with the team, sources...say it hasn't been conditioning work. The report from his first appearance is that he is woefully out of shape."
Despite being allegedly unfit, White still put up seven points, eight rebounds and four assists in his first outing. Bucher goes on to explain that such a lack of conditioning feeds the notion that White isn't taking his golden opportunity at an NBA career seriously.
Do you agree with Royce White's actions as an NBA rookie?
But perhaps White's cause is nobler than it may appear to be on the surface—not the deed of a first-year prima donna trying to seek unnecessary leverage.
A player who has had to fight hard to make it to the highest level of pro basketball in the world is willing to put it all on the line to ensure that the team accommodates his general anxiety disorder. It may be an unprecedented situation, but that doesn't mean it's wrong.
White suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder and has an inherent fear of flying (h/t USA TODAY), which makes traveling a bit problematic. Several players have likely dealt with issues before, but it is courageous of White to take a stand for what he believes in. And it's refreshing.
He tried to dismiss any assertion that he didn't want to return to the court prior to making his debut on Tuesday with the Vipers: "It was tough not being able to play, but it was necessary...I feel like I've been right on the verge of coming back the whole time. I've kind of been just waiting right on the edge of my seat to come back. I'm not really nervous or anything. I'm just ready to get back out there."
It appears that White is actually appeased with how his unique situation has been handled by the Rockets recently. He took to Twitter to illustrate his traveling issues on Wednesday and gave thanks to both the Rockets and Vipers:
Whenever the former Iowa State star and No. 16 overall pick eventually does hit the court in Houston, it promises to be very interesting.
As a highly versatile power forward who is extremely athletic with a soft touch and exceptional passing ability, White has the potential to be an instant asset to the Rockets. The team is clinging to the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference entering the All-Star break.