Royce White will fly, but that isn't really the issue

Royce White will fly, but that isn't really the issue
July 7, 2013, 10:00 am
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Royce White will fly.

Sometimes.

Assuming he decides to play.

White, a 6-foot-8 forward the Sixers acquired from the Houston Rockets on Friday night (see story), has a well-documented fear of flying, part of a larger anxiety disorder that derailed his rookie season before it ever started.

Selected 16th overall out of Iowa State as one the Rockets' three 2012 first-round draft picks, White did not play a game in the NBA last season when something like a philosophical dispute between the rookie and the Rockets' organization left the two sides at an impasse.

After he was drafted, White and the Rockets agreed to an arrangement that would bus him to certain games when it was logistically possible. That said, the real argument over whether or not White would play ended up having little to do with travel.

White -- as he explained himself in an interview with Grantland's Chuck Klosterman last January -- wanted a provision built into his contract that his own doctor would have the final say over whether or not he was able to play basketball, not the Rockets' team doctor. White seemed unconcerned about the larger ramifications that might have around the league, and merely insisted that his own contract put his doctor in charge -- which, of course, never happened.

After initially refusing a D-League assignment, White played off-and-on with Houston's affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, for the remainder of the season, although he would sit out the team's playoff run, citing the hectic travel schedule as the reason for his absence.

And that leads us to Friday's trade with the Sixers, landing White in a different city, with a different franchise, but a strikingly similar boss. It was Sixers GM Sam Hinkie who played a role in drafting White when he was the assistant to Rockets GM Daryl Morey. Although it's a fresh start for White, it doesn't seem like the end result will be any different with the Sixers based on his previous demands -- unless the team acquiesces to those demands or White changes his mind.

The Sixers have team options for White for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons, but a league source indicated to CSNPhilly.com Friday night that the Sixers may be leaning toward using White's deal as an expiring contract after next year.

That would suggest that the Sixers don't have much hope that White will tap into the talent that would have made him a top-5 draft choice had it not been for his mental condition. They have until the end of October to make their decision about keeping him beyond next summer, otherwise he'll become an unrestricted free agent following the 2013-14 season.

Off the floor, where he's spent all of his NBA career thus far, White is a prolific tweeter. He spends much of his time responding those who tweet at him -- especially those whose messages are particularly harsh -- with the hashtag "#BeWell," his unique attempt at promoting mental health through social media.

He tweeted the following on Friday night after learning of the trade that sent him to Philly, suggesting that he should be off to a decent start with Sixers brass:

Another tweet on Saturday night re-focused the conversation surrounding White back on transportation.

It's somewhat encouraging that White is considering the possibility of NBA travel. But that concern, based on his history, is secondary.

Because we know Royce White will fly.

Sometimes.

Assuming he decides to play -- that's the real important part.

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