The Sacramento Kings have signed Royce White to a 10-day contract, and I find myself filled with a variety of emotions and reactions.
White's time in the NBA thus far has been tumultuous, at best. The Houston Rockets spent a 2012 first round pick, the 16th overall, on White. The Rockets stated that they were well aware of White's now-infamous anxiety disorder. White suffers from severe anxiety, and struggled with normal aspects of NBA life, such as air travel.
While a member of the Rockets, White encountered setback after setback. He appeared unwilling to abide by the team's directions, insisting that a team doctor was unqualified to assist with his treatment and amenities. He failed to show up for practices. He refused a D-League assignment, before eventually reporting to the Rio Grande Vipers. All of this occurred while White was lashing out regularly on Twitter. White referred any criticisms back to his disorder, the Rocket's alleged unwillingness to work with him, or the league's lack of proper protocol for handling mental illness.
After failing to work with the Rockets, White was traded to the 76ers. The same 76ers that are the second worst team in the league this year. They're horrible, and were searching for young talent as part of their rebuilding effort. Again, White didn't work out. He has never played in an NBA game.
White is extremely talented. He is a very good basketball player. But whether he can ever be an NBA player remains to be seen. White began as an advocate for mental health, but soon became a hindrance to his own movement. His twitter outbursts and unwillingness to work with his employers do no favors to those who suffer from anxiety or other mental issues. They feed a stigma, rather than breaking it down as his career was expected to.
On the verge of joining the Kings, the perception of White is that he's not worth the trouble, no matter how much talent he may possess. I argue that perception has less to do with White's disorder, and more to do with his professionalism. International basketball leagues are littered with NBA-level talent that NBA teams didn't feel was worth the hassle. You don't have to have a disorder to be unprofessional or to be a headache.
White does have a disorder. Anxiety disorders are a very real thing. Thanks to White and the articles written upon his entry to the NBA, I myself came to realize I was struggling with anxiety issues. Not to the extent White does, but serious enough that I needed help and hadn't even realized it. White's courage against his disorder led others to speak openly about their issues, which in turn helped me recognize the problems I was having and get help. I now take medication, and my life is considerably better. I'm more productive at work, I'm dealing with far less stress, and I'm generally a much happier person. I owe that, however indirectly, to Royce White.
And from my own experience, I know that the way someone acted a year ago may not be how they'll act now. Dealing with any sort of mental disorder is an ongoing battle. Tinkering with medications. Undergoing therapy, perhaps. Adjusting to new stresses. Perhaps the transition to the NBA was just too abrupt for White. Perhaps he's just an asshole.
But this signing is a low-risk, high-reward venture for the Kings. Sacramento is in the midst of a lost season. A season of substantial turnover and change. The Kings are obviously using the remaining games to try out various players. They bought out Jimmer Fredette, creating an extra roster spot they can use to try various players. Orlando Johnson was the first signing, being added on a 10-day contract. Royce White appears is the second. 10-day contracts are low-risk. If a player doesn't work out, they're gone in a week and a half. If they work, you can sign them to another 10-day deal. If they really work out, you may find a talented player for your future.
With the trade deadline behind us, the Kings are showing that they remain committed to aggressively working to improve the team. And this move would fit with their previous approach of finding "another man's trash" and giving them a change of scenery. The acquisition of Rudy Gay was scoffed at, much in the same way this signing is. Obviously Gay was in a very different situation, but the theme is the same.
I'm ok with the Kings giving Royce White another chance. I'll be rooting for him to succeed. I'm just not going to get my hopes up. In other words, I'm viewing this the same as any other 10-day contract.
Welcome to Sacramento, Royce.