Royce White joined Slate's Hang Up and Listen podcast to discuss his struggles with the Rockets with respect to his mental health problems on Monday night. If you want to read the full interview, click here, but we'll try to give you a pretty good rundown of what he had to say.
More than anything, this discussion with Stefan Fatsis, Josh Levin, and Mike Pesca of Slate gave White a platform to elaborate on a number of issues that were not easily explainable from 140 characters on Twitter. To start things off, Royce discussed his expectations when he declared for the draft:
I understood that I was one of the first players to be so honest and public about my mental health struggles on the front end, so to speak. So I knew that it was going to be a long process and some growing pains along the way anyway. I expected that from day one.
As the interview continues, Royce then discusses the "protocol" they implemented at Iowa State and the impasse that has emerged with the Rockets:
The plan that Iowa State implemented was a very simple one. And it was, listen, Coach Hoiberg was great in understanding that he knew very little about mental health. And I think part of the reason, you know, he was so open is because he has his own health issue that is another complex health issue with his heart condition, and he understood that he needed to listen to not only the doctors but he needed to listen to me and he needed to trust that I wasn't going to try and get over on him using my condition and whatnot. And we had that understanding and we ended up working well together.
The protocol here is just that [an ADA accommodation], you know, when a medical situation arises, dealing with the mental-health-related symptoms, that a medical professional take the lead on how to move forward. Whether that be not moving at all, whether that be moving slow, whether that be moving at 100 miles an hour. Somebody that's qualified and trained to give medical advice is the person who is at the lead of that. And I think that's very logical and sensible. And to allow somebody like Daryl Morey, for example, to take the lead on that situation with having no medical training, is not only illogical but at the bare minimum it's very unsafe.
After that, Royce discusses in greater detail his mental problems, the position of the NBPA (they fully support him, per his accounts), and his college career. It's all worth a read/listen, but we're going to stick to the issue at hand here.
At this point, the issue apparently boils down to one simple thing: the Rockets (and presumably their team of physicians) want to have more control over Royce with respect to his mental health, and Royce prefers to have his current doctors preside over his health. If Royce's doctors were qualified and had both the Rockets and Royce's best interests in mind, then I don't think that the Rockets would have too much of a problem.
Unfortunately, it doesn't appear that that is the case. As Royce mentions later in the interview, he is still being advised his family practice doctor who he has seen since he was a high schooler. It was that same family practice doctor that recommended Royce get accommodations before training camp in order to avoid flying as much and put a protocol in place. Not a psychiatrist with expertise in this area, a family practice doctor.
Having an internist advising him is just one example of what appears to be a bigger problem of Royce surrounding himself with bad people. Anyone reasonably qualified in public relations would tell Royce that sounding off on Twitter and antagonizing the Rockets staff, fans, and the NBA media would only hurt his cause. At times, it appears that Royce is more interested in being an advocate for mental health awareness than a basketball player, but he doesn't realize that the most powerful way he can get his message out is to overcome these problems and succeed in the NBA. If he continues down this road much longer, his platform to discuss mental health will be gone, and he will just be a faded memory in the eyes of the NBA.
As Royce and the Rockets attempt to go forward in their negotiations, it's worth noting that there is some hope for resolution. After all, both the Royce and the Rockets' goals match up very closely, and, if cooler heads can prevail, there is no reason why Royce cannot be a contributor for the Rockets in the next few years. However, as the process drags on and Royce continues to dig himself a deeper hole with every dig at the Rockets front office, there comes a point where his talent is not worth the distraction. We can hope that we never get to that point, but I fear that we are getting dangerously close by the day.