Since Sam Hinkie became the President and General Manager of the 76ers last May, I have to say that I’ve been a big fan of what he’s done so far. From the Jrue Holiday draft day trade that brought us Nerlens Noel to the signing of Tony Wroten and Darius Morris to the hiring of Brett Brown, everything he has done has been to make this team better. Their is a clear plan at work and, if we can judge from one preseason game, it seems to be working.
So why the hell did he decide to sign Royce White?
For those that might not know, White was the 16th overall pick of the 2012 NBA Draft, going to the Houston Rockets. The 6’8 forward was a standout at Iowa State so the Rockets took a chance and drafted him, despite the fact White has an anxiety disorder which makes it almost impossible for him to fly on a plane.
That can be kind of an issue when half the games you play are away and some of the time that necessitates, you know, getting on an airplane.
Since White and the Rockets couldn’t agree on how to handle his anxiety issues, he didn’t play a single game for the team and ended up only participating in 16 games in the D-League. So the Rockets were more than happy to trade him to the Sixers for a future draft pick and even included the rights to Turkish center Furkan Aldemir, the player the Sixers were really after. And the best part? White’s entire salary this year will be paid by Houston, meaning he is a no risk acquisition.
When the issue of flying came up again at the Sixers Media Day, White assured everyone he was willing to fly and had hopefully worked out an arrangement with the team.
“It’s early, it’s a bonus to even be here. I’m lucky to have Sam take a chance on me — again. I’m not saying I don’t deserve a chance, but we all know how it goes. There’s other people out there who can play and want to play. I’m just happy to be here and hopefully we can find an arrangement that works here in Philly.”
He even went so far as to say he would be going to Europe with the Sixers for their two preseason games overseas.
But when the time came to head off to Italy, guess who wasn’t on the flight?
Yep. Royce White.
Now don’t think I don’t sympathize with him. I know people with anxiety disorders and they are very real and can be incredibly debilitating. However, if you have an uncontrollable fear of clowns, you don’t pursue a career working in the circus. If calculators make you uncomfortable, you don’t decide to become an accountant. And if you want to play in any major pro sport, you have to be able to get on an airplane.
I’m sure all of you are thinking “So what? The Sixers aren’t paying him and we can just cut him loose at the end of the year.” And I’m well aware Hinkie knew White from when he was the Executive Vice President in Houston so him giving White another chance isn’t all that surprising.
But do the 76ers really need to be thinking about this? Do they need to hear questions about White all season? Does Brown really need the headache of trying to factor in when and if White will play? Shouldn’t his attention be focused on his young core of players that will hopefully form the foundation of a championship winning Sixers team and not on one player who will only be available when and if he can?
It reminds me of the whole Philadelphia Eagles / Shawn Andrews debacle from 2008, where Andrews was having issues with depression that caused him to miss training camp and it became a distraction for the team. It seemed like that was all the media wanted to talk about that preseason and it would be a shame if the same thing happened here.
Of all the decisions Hinkie has made, this is the one that worries me the most. So for the team’s sake and the fans, they should just cut White now. If this was a few years from now, when the Sixers weren’t in such a developmental stage and the rookies all had a few years under their belts, I would say give Royce White a chance and see what happens. But this isn’t the time or the team for a player who needs special attention.
It’s bad enough someone is going to have to babysit Kwame Brown all season.