According to the Houston Chronicle (via Deadspin, pour moi), the newly-drafted Royce White appears to be heading for the dreaded "headcase" label. The Chronicle's Jonathan Feigen reported Tuesday evening that all was not well between the 21-year-old forward and the Houston Rockets' management. Feigen's report suggests that the front office staff have been less-than-enamored with White's handling of his anxiety disorder, a condition he's been shockingly open about since well before this year's draft, while White contends that his honesty has only been met with an "inconsistent" attempt to create a supportive atmosphere in which he can work.
Deadspin's commentary suggests that Houston is accusing him of using his disorder to get out of a D-League assignment, while White seems to be arguing that Houston hasn't provided him with an appropriate environment in which to work. It's an unfortunate situation for a truly exciting player to find himself in.
I should begin by saying that I've been a Royce White fan for a while, and think that he has the tools to be a very valuable player in the NBA. His athleticism and ball-handling made him one of the most intriguing prospects in the draft, earning him the comparison to a rich-man's Boris Diaw (having seen the poor-man's version occasionally light it up, it'd be a thrill to watch the moderately in-shape model). And yet, he remains mysterious and talented: a combination that either works wonders (see: Rondo, Rajon) or...doesn't (the jury's still out, but a knee-jerk reaction says Tyreke Evans could soon join this long list).
I include the previous disclaimer because it means that I'm more inclined to believe White's side of the story than Houston's. I think front offices are generally less equipped to handle issues like anxiety disorders than, say, collegiate staffs and probably aren't as sympathetic and supportive as they might try to seem. White never missed a game or practice in college due to his problem, and so it seems unlikely that something would be amiss now if there weren't stresses being put on him that he wasn't prepared to deal with. To me, it seems that White and Houston came to an agreement during the draft on how to proceed, and White feels they've not met up to their end of the bargain. Houston probably feels misled or gamed. Either way, the relationship is clearly contentious.
Thus, I imagine, the Royce White sweepstakes might be underway. If I am not simply being Pollyanna-ish and Royce White's situation has truly been mishandled by Houston, one franchise's loss is another franchise's gain. Why, then, may it not be the Bobcats who gain by Houston's loss?
As all armchair GMs like to say these days, an undervalued asset is a magnificent find. In baseball, it used to be high-OBP guys. In basketball, it can often be those with "character problems"; the Memphis Grizzlies have built a pseudo-contender out of those kinds of guys. Royce White is a talented basketball player, and the Charlotte Bobcats need all of the talent they can get. If White may soon become available, it would behoove the Bobcats to enquire about his cost.
To me, it seems that White would thrive in the right system and with the right people around him. The young core and low-expectations of the Bobcats would be a perfect fit in which White can develop his NBA skills and work on his anxiety. Charlotte is not a marquee team. Charlotte is not a glamorous city. It is a comfortable place with welcoming people. If he could succeed anywhere, it'd be Charlotte. The team could give him the space and support structure to help him grow, and in return he could give us some great basketball.
I don't pretend to know what's going on in the Houston locker room, front office, or Royce White's head, but I know that he's an incredibly talented player and it'd be a shame to let that talent go to waste. The red flag in all of this is that Houston has been known to have a forward-thinking front office, with GM Daryl Morey being among the league's best in handing out contracts and building for the future. But there are complexities to front offices that go beyond the analytics of a GM. For example, Portland put together an exciting core of LaMarcus Aldridge, Greg Oden, and Brandon Roy, only to have injuries destroy two-thirds of it- injuries some believe were exacerbated by poor injury management. Morey is talented, but he isn't responsible for everything that happens to a player.
Ultimately, it stands to reason Daryl Morey wouldn't let a lottery pick like White leave unless he believed White either a) couldn't succeed in the NBA or b) couldn't succeed on the Rockets. If it's answer 'b', whoever gets him could end up with something special. Given the opportunity, I think that's a chance a young team like ours should take.