Right now, the Philadelphia 76ers are in one of the world’s most interesting cities, Bilbao, Spain. From there they will travel on to Manchester, England, (which is kind of interesting) to take on the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Royce White is not with them.
White battles an general anxiety disorder — which has a number of symptoms, among them a fear of flying — and while he said he wanted to go to Europe with the team the team let him stay, coach Brett Brown told the Philadelphia Inquirer.
“It really was just based on our team doctor giving me and Sam (Henkie, Sixers GM) and the club advice that it may be best for him to remain at home,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said of White’s absence. “You know we are with him. We will support and help him.”
This is well handled by the Sixers — is the anxiety and distraction of some very long flights really worth it to have him suit up for preseason games? No.
Every time I write about White the comments and my twitter timeline fill up with “just get on the plane” lines from people who lack either understanding or empathy (both of which are kind of sad). White is battling a recognized mental illness, there are legitimate concerns. Yes, he has been brash in talking about how the league doesn’t help players like him but rather treats them as replaceable parts — and he’s not wrong about that. This can be a cold business. But his style has not won over the casual basketball fan, and the only way he’s ever really get leverage in this fight is to get on the court and perform well.
We’ll see if that ever happens. In the end, the NBA’s travel-heavy lifestyle and White just may not be able to mesh.
I think the Sixers are handling this well. Give him space and time, have him at training camp and see how it works. Don’t push him into a long flight to Spain.
Philadelphia brought him in with limited expectations, if it works out great if not they save money when they let his contract expire. White is a 6’8” guy with the skills to potentially play some point forward, and he had moments where he looked good for the Rockets’ D-League affiliate (he averaged 11.4 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 3.3 assists a game).
Hopefully we’ll get to see him in some NBA preseason action this season to start. Then we’ll see what’s next.