Scoggins: Royce White and NBA need common ground

  • Article by: CHIP SCOGGINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 18, 2013 - 10:20 AM
hide

Royce White, recently acquired by the Philadelphia 76ers, was his old, dominant self in a Howard Pulley League game on Monday in Eagan.

Photo: JEFF WHEELER • jeff.wheeler@startribune.com,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

One minute remained on the game clock and his team held a comfortable lead, so Royce White thought he’d treat the crowd to a showboat move.

Alone on a fast break, White tossed the ball off the backboard and leapt to throw down a thunderous, one-handed dunk. Except his timing was a smidgen off, so he had to settle for a layup, drawing a mixture of laughs and wisecracks and a wry smile from White.

It was 10 p.m. with about 200 people in attendance at a suburban Twin Cities gym.

Facing a bunch of college players in the Howard Pulley Summer League, White was the main attraction and, at 6-8 and 260 pounds, he wasn’t hard to spot. He looked like Shrek on a basketball court with his imposing presence.

He scored 24 points but could have finished with 80, if he wanted. He zipped one bounce pass from half-court through traffic to a cutting teammate for a layup. He made a deep three-pointer, played point guard and posted up whenever he felt like shooting a layup.

Amid the oohs and aahs, I kept thinking to myself, hopefully this isn’t as good as it gets.

White belongs in the NBA. He’s too skilled and too powerful to see his talent go to waste. But his future as a professional basketball player remains murky as he attempts to forge a career while remaining steadfast in his conviction that his mental health issues take precedence over everything.

A first-round draft pick last summer, White already has a new team after the Houston Rockets traded him to Philadelphia earlier this month in a divorce that seemed inevitable. A change of address gives the appearance of a fresh start, but the uncertainty surrounding his medical situation raises skepticism that the outcome actually will be different.

“I think realistically it’s hard to look ahead just given the past year,” White said this week. “You don’t want to get too ahead of yourself in terms of your own expectations, especially when it has so much to do with other people’s actions.”

White became a lightning rod in NBA circles during a rookie season that saw him play zero games but make headlines from coast to coast. His anxiety disorder — which is manifested in a fear of flying, among other things — created a well-documented dispute with the Rockets organization over the scope of his medical care.

White reiterated that he’s willing to fly on those occasions when traveling on a bus is not realistic. His concern, he said, rests with how his team and the NBA handle situations in which his anxiety disorder prevents him from flying and he misses a game. He believes those situations should be classified as a legitimate medical reason and not an unexcused absence, thus subjecting him to discipline.

“The medical people who are in the medical field would advocate that, if I’m having some anxiety issues or some stress issues related to my disorder, that would be considered a medical excuse,” he said. “Obviously there are people who feel otherwise. It’s really complex, but those are the facts.”

White’s stance seemingly lacks any real gray area in public opinion. Critics accuse him of being a con artist. Supporters view him as a staunch advocate hellbent on using his platform to raise awareness for mental illness.

I won’t pretend to know the depth of White’s condition or his struggles. Only he knows that. That he’s willing to jeopardize a lucrative career suggests his issues are far more serious than the casual perception that he’s nothing more than a nervous flier.

But his employers are in a tough spot, too. Consistency and reliability are hallmarks that every sports franchise seeks from its athletes. Teams make a significant financial investment in players, and they need to be able to count on them.

What makes this situation so unique is that it involves mental health. By nature, professional athletes are conditioned to conceal any perceived weakness or vulnerability. Here is an NBA player acknowledging a mental disorder that occasionally impacts his ability to function.

“A player like myself will never be fully supported the way they need to be until the NBA steps in and makes it a priority,” he said. “That means you have to actually go and do the work. You have to bring the coaches up to speed on what mental health is all about and what we know about it today. We have seminars at the beginning of each rookie season about drugs and alcohol abuse and money management [but] not mental health. It’s a big gap and a lot of stigma to the topic.”

White hopes a new start in Philadelphia will enable him to play basketball and continue to serve as an advocate. He believes the geographic proximity of Sixers’ opponents on the East Coast will present more flexible travel arrangements. Hopefully the two sides can find common ground on a workable plan.

  • related content

  • Hartman: Brewer excited to be back with Wolves

    Thursday July 18, 2013

    The team’s 2007 first-round draft pick sees stability, coaching as keys for his second stint in Minnesota.

  • Wolves beat Kings by 38 in Summer League; Muhammad scores 17

    Thursday July 18, 2013

    Video highlights from the Wolves' NBA Summer League game in Las Vegas on Wednesday.

  • RandBall: Stats on the Wolves sad draft history

    Thursday July 18, 2013

    Good times

  • Royce White, protecting the ball during a Howard Pulley League game, wants the NBA to be more responsive to mental health issues.

  • Pat Gallatin got a big hug after Royce White’s game Monday. At left was Ginny Krey. Both are longtime friends of White’s grandmother.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Tennessee 12/18/14 7:25 PM
Jacksonville
Philadelphia 12/20/14 3:30 PM
Washington
San Diego 12/20/14 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Oakland
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
Atlanta 6:00 PM
Cleveland
Phoenix 6:00 PM
Charlotte
Dallas 6:30 PM
Detroit
Utah 6:30 PM
Miami
Orlando 6:30 PM
Boston
Brooklyn 7:00 PM
Toronto
Memphis 7:30 PM
San Antonio
Milwaukee 9:00 PM
Portland
Houston 9:30 PM
Denver
Indiana 9:30 PM
LA Clippers
Ottawa 6:00 PM
New Jersey
Boston 7:00 PM
Minnesota
Dallas 9:00 PM
Vancouver
Langston 65 FINAL
North Texas 78
Delaware State 48 2nd Half 12:48
St Francis-NY 36
James Madison 6:00 PM
Ball State
SIU Edwardsville 6:00 PM
Campbell
St Francis-PA 6:00 PM
Duquesne
North Florida 6:00 PM
Florida State
Catawba 6:00 PM
George Mason
Ferrum 6:00 PM
High Point
Hampton 6:00 PM
Illinois
Gardner-Webb 6:00 PM
Jacksonville
Longwood 6:00 PM
Miami-Ohio
Arkansas State 6:00 PM
Miss State
Tennessee 6:00 PM
NC State
NC A&T 6:00 PM
Ohio State
Manhattan 6:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Robert Morris 6:00 PM
Toledo
Char Southern 6:00 PM
Wofford
Kennesaw St 6:00 PM
Youngstown St
Barber-Scotia 6:00 PM
NC Central
Detroit 6:30 PM
UCF
Liberty 6:30 PM
UNC-Wilmington
TX A&M-CC 7:00 PM
Denver
Ark-Pine Bluff 7:00 PM
Houston
UT Martin 7:00 PM
Illinois State
Milligan 7:00 PM
Louisiana
Abilene Christian 7:00 PM
Loyola-Chicago
USC Upstate 7:00 PM
Memphis
Alcorn State 7:00 PM
Murray State
Central Mich 7:00 PM
Northwestern
Georgia State 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
TX-Pan American 7:00 PM
Saint Louis
Ill-Chicago 7:00 PM
SMU
Texas State 7:00 PM
Stephen F Austin
SC State 7:00 PM
Texas Tech
Missouri State 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Chicago State 7:00 PM
Western Ky
Morehead State 7:00 PM
Green Bay
Northern Colorado 7:00 PM
Nebraska Omaha
Winthrop 8:00 PM
Auburn
New Mexico St 8:00 PM
Baylor
San Diego St 8:00 PM
Cincinnati
Eastern Mich 8:00 PM
Michigan State
Loyola Marymount 8:00 PM
Stanford
Incarnate Word 8:00 PM
Grand Canyon
Northeastern 9:00 PM
Cal Poly
Central Arkansas 9:00 PM
New Mexico
Howard 9:00 PM
Pepperdine
Portland 9:30 PM
UNLV
CS-Northridge 10:00 PM
Oregon
Grambling St 10:00 PM
Washington
Nevada 12/20/14 10:00 AM
Louisiana
Utah State 12/20/14 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 12/20/14 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 12/20/14 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 12/20/14 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Western Carolina 79 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 66
(21) Miss State 66 FINAL
Louisiana 51
(25) DePaul 109 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 84
Liberty 64 FINAL
NC State 67
Elon 77 FINAL
Campbell 51
Akron 37 1st Half 0:33
UCF 30
Richmond 39 1st Half 1:19
UNC-Wilmington 33
Montana 10 1st Half 14:22
Seattle 8
(7) Stanford 5:00 PM
Chattanooga
Florida A&M 5:30 PM
Southern U
Oklahoma 5:30 PM
(13) Duke
Savannah State 5:30 PM
Auburn
Northern Colorado 6:00 PM
South Florida
Youngstown St 6:00 PM
Robert Morris
Siena 6:00 PM
Sacred Heart
Vermont 6:00 PM
St Francis-NY
(1) South Carolina 6:00 PM
Hampton
Fla Gulf Coast 6:00 PM
Bethune-Cookman
Texas Southern 6:00 PM
Houston Baptist
Northwestern 6:00 PM
UNLV
NC A&T 6:00 PM
Appalachian St
NC Central 6:00 PM
Coastal Carolina
Drexel 6:00 PM
Quinnipiac
Cincinnati 6:00 PM
Northern Ky
Alabama State 6:00 PM
Georgia Tech
Morehead St 6:00 PM
USC Upstate
Arkansas State 6:00 PM
Kent State
American Univ 6:00 PM
Manhattan
UNC Greensboro 6:00 PM
St Bonaventure
Arkansas-Monticello 6:30 PM
Northwestern St
Prairie View 6:30 PM
Sam Houston St
McNeese State 7:00 PM
(3) Texas
Yale 7:00 PM
Wagner
Oakland 7:00 PM
TX A&M-CC
Eastern Kentucky 7:00 PM
Alabama A&M
SIU-Edwardsville 7:00 PM
Northern Ill
McMurry 7:00 PM
TX-Arlington
Portland 8:00 PM
Eastern Washington
North Texas 9:00 PM
San Francisco
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

<
Gophers Football Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.X24-7
Sep 27 - at Michigan 2:30 pmX30-14
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern 11 amX24-17
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 amX39-38
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 amX28-24
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa 11 amX51-14
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State 11 amX31-24
Nov 22 - at Nebraska 11 amX28-24
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin 2:30 pmX34-24
Jan 1 - vs. Missouri noon

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How much do you like the Gophers going to the Citrus Bowl?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close