- Myron Medcalf, ESPN Staff Writer
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Before he's willing to start training camp, Houston Rockets rookie Royce White wants the team's permission to travel to some games by private bus, the former Iowa State star told ESPN.com on Wednesday night.
White's fear of flying, he said, magnifies his anxiety disorder. So he's asked the Rockets to let him use a bus for some of the team's extensive road trips. White said he's willing to purchase the bus and assume liability.
Busing to games, he said, is a vital component in the treatment of his anxiety.
White, who missed the team's media day on Monday and the start of training camp in McAllen, Texas, on Tuesday, said he hopes to reach an agreement with the team soon. He said he expects to join his teammates within "a week," if talks with the Rockets continue to progress.
"What it's going to look like is every game that's drivable, I'm going to get a bus for myself," White said. "And I'm going to make that bus feel like home so that there's a level of consistency in a job where inconsistency is very apparent because of the schedule. I'm going to try and level that out and make sure that my stress levels stay low and that my rest is regular and that my meals are regular and that as much as I can, draw consistency from a very inconsistent schedule. ...
"People with mental illness, one of the most important things is that they have that consistency and routine. The girth of (my request) was, 'Can I travel by bus to close enough games?' "
Earlier Wednesday, White released a statement that detailed his refusal to join the team until a plan to address his "long-term health" was in place.
"There are often negative consequences to mental illness when not given the proper support," said White, according to a statement released through his publicist, California-based China Myers. "Often, those consequences are more severe for the surrounding people than the sufferer him/herself. I am not willing to allow those consequences to befall on myself or others close to me.
"It causes me anxiety to know that serious consequences could happen if I do not express what I deal with, or if I am not truthful enough to ask for what I need to be healthy. For me, hiding is no longer a healthy option in treating my anxiety or OCD, so I have asked for some help from the organization to ensure long-term health for myself.
"It has been determined that without a specific plan in place, the current workplace is not healthy for me. I feel that it is essential to formulate the right plan for a better chance of execution, despite other timelines or agendas. The most important agenda to me is a plan that is healthy. Therefore, a plan has been requested that will support a healthy work environment. In addition to this, it has been requested that the standard requirements for players in regards to this plan be voided because it is not a standard situation.
"It is regrettable that I cannot be currently present, but long-term health obviously should be the most important thing. I will continue to champion the cause for mental illness being met with understanding; if not, the ramifications are dangerous.
"Mental illness is a very individual-based disorder -- very unique for each person. So for those who come forward and ask for help, a very unique support plan should be the solution, given the nature of mental illness.
"No blame is being placed on the Rockets organization."
White said he's unsure if he'll start training camp sans a written agreement with the team.
When White, the 16th pick in the 2012 draft, failed to appear at the squad's media day on Monday and the start of training camp on Tuesday due to what the franchise termed a "personnel matter," many assumed the former Iowa State forward's anxiety disorder was the culprit.
White confirmed as much when he told a local TV station in Houston that he was working with the team to prepare the proper plan for the treatment of his anxiety disorder.
The team backed White on Tuesday.
"We are committed to Royce's long-term success and we will continue to support him now and going forward," said Daryl Morey, Rockets general manager, through an official statement released by the team.
The absence of any NBA first-round draft pick from the start of training camp and media day would create a buzz. The absence of an NBA first-rounder with a history of anxiety and prior legal issues, which affected his collegiate career, magnified the response when White was deemed a no-show earlier this week.
White, a Minneapolis native, started his career at the University of Minnesota. But he was suspended before he ever played a game for his involvement in a shoplifting incident. An investigation of a theft in a campus dorm and a trespassing charge kept him off the floor for his entire freshman season. But White found success at Iowa State, where he led the Cyclones to the NCAA tournament and earned first-team All-Big 12 honors last year.
That rebirth, however, included an admission of his anxiety disorder, a condition he discussed at length with ESPN.com in January. Some viewed White's challenge with anxiety as a red flag. The Rockets grabbed him midway through the first round but some projections predicted he'd drop and possibly miss the first round because of his anxiety disorder.
White said he recognizes his request might be viewed as a demand for preferential treatment. But the people who've experienced some form of mental illness will understand, he said.
"I don't really worry about that because the perception, I think, is just not valid, all around," he said. "If somebody has a broken leg, you give them crutches. And even though mental illness is different in the way it looks than a broken leg, it's not really different in theory. Conceptually, it's the same thing. And I don't think getting a bus is actually any more convenient for me. ... It's actually more inconvenient for me to take a longer trip, but for me, specifically, it works well."
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