Top rookie with anxiety issue joins Rockets' camp


Top rookie with anxiety issue joins Rockets' camp

HOUSTON (AP) Royce White finally got to focus on basketball Monday, joining the Houston Rockets after he missed the first week of training camp to form a long-term plan for his anxiety issues.

White, the 16th overall pick in the draft, has a deal with the team to travel by bus to some games this season, a compromise he says will help him cope with his anxiety, fear of flying and obsessive compulsive disorder over the long term.

He was happy to just be back on the court after the swell of national media attention sparked by his request to the team.

``Trying to get back in the swing of things,'' White said. ``It went as good as it could go.''

Houston held its first week of practice in McAllen, home of its developmental league affiliate. The Rockets were back at the Toyota Center on Monday, and coach Kevin McHale said White was noticeably behind in his conditioning and his familiarity with Houston's plays.

``He's got to catch up on what we're doing,'' McHale said. ``It's always hard when you're a young guy and you miss early camp practice, when you're trying to establish your principles and what you're doing. But he'll be fine.''

White's off-the-court issues were no secret. NBA teams still wanted to talk to him after his one spectacular season at Iowa State. White was the only Division I player to lead his team in scoring (13.4 points per game), rebounds (9.3 per game), assists (five per game), steals (1.2 per game) and blocks (0.9 per game) and led the Cyclones to their first NCAA tournament appearance in seven years.

The Rockets decided he was too good to pass up. And over the summer, White flew with the team to Las Vegas and to the rookie orientation in New York City, suggesting that he had a handle on his aerophobia.

As training camp approached, though, White felt apprehensive about starting his first NBA season without a plan to cope with his disorder. He contacted the Rockets through his agent and the two sides negotiated their arrangement.

``I'm excited,'' White said. ``It's a different plan than I've ever had going into a season. I'm happy that the Rockets are willing to work with me, and I'm excited to see what I can do under new circumstances.''

McHale, who played 13 seasons in a Hall of Fame career with the Boston Celtics, acknowledged concern for how White was going to navigate through the travel demands of the league schedule.

``Royce is going to have a little bit of a different path in the NBA,'' McHale said. ``If your choice is to have a 10-hour bus ride, or an hour flight, everyone would want to take an hour flight. He's just going to have to work his way through all that stuff.

``We're here to help him and support him as much as we can,'' McHale said, ``but he eventually has to be responsible to your team and your teammates. That's the biggest thing.''

On Monday, White easily answered questions in front of a throng of media. If anything, White said going public with his personal struggle has been cathartic.

``In a lot of areas, we're actors,'' White said with a smile. ``The camera doesn't frighten me. Planes do.''

He hopes the attention his situation has generated creates more awareness for mental-health issues and treatment.

``It helps for me, just to be honest,'' he said. ``One of the things that comes with anxiety is trying to hide from what you're scared of and oftentimes, that is the spotlight. Being honest and having good feedback obviously helps me out.''

His teammates seemed happy to have White back, greeting him with high-fives and encouragement when practice began. If White can blossom, the Rockets think he can provide a strong - and much-needed - inside presence.

``He has a unique skill set,'' point guard Jeremy Lin said. ``We don't really have anybody who can do what he can do. More importantly, we're thankful that he's healthy and with the team. He learned a lot today. He didn't look like he missed too much.''

White seems willing to do whatever is necessary to get up to speed on the court.

``I just stay goal-oriented,'' White said. ``I want to be a good teammate, and I want to be a part of this organization. I have other goals and aspirations and I just stick to those, focus on those. I'm just ready to do whatever they ask me to do.''

Quick Links

Redskins guarantee Alex Smith a whopping $71 million in new contract

USA Today Sports Images

Redskins guarantee Alex Smith a whopping $71 million in new contract

When the Redskins traded for Alex Smith on January 30, news also broke that he had agreed to a four-year extension with Washington in addition to the one year left on his contract with the Chiefs. While we got some top-line numbers on the deal, we have gone since then without any details.

Until now.

The details show a deal that has a slightly higher cap hit in 2018 than was on his original Chiefs contract and the numbers rise gradually over the life of the deal, which runs through 2022.


Smith got a $27 million signing bonus and his salaries for 2018 ($13 million) and 2019 ($15 million) also are fully guaranteed at signing making the total $55 million (information via Over the Cap, which got data from a report by Albert Breer).

But there is another $16 million that is guaranteed for all practical purposes. On the fifth day of the 2019 league year, his 2020 salary of $16 million becomes fully guaranteed. He almost assuredly will get to the point where that money will become guaranteed since the Redskins are not going to cut him after one year having invested $55 million in him. So the total guarantees come to $71 million.

His 2021 salary is $19 million and it goes up to $21 million in 2022. There have been reports of some incentives available to Smith, but since we have no details, we’ll set those aside for now.

The cap hits on the contract are as follows:

2018: $18.4 million
2019: $20.0 million
2020: $21.4 million
2021: $24.4 million
2022: $26.4 million

The Redskins can realistically move on from Smith after 2020. There would be net cap savings of $13 million in 2021 and $21 million in 2022.

The first impression of the deal is that the Redskins did not move on from Kirk Cousins because they didn’t want to guarantee a lot of money to a quarterback. The total practical guarantee of $71 million is second only to Cousins’ $82.5 million. It should be noted that Cousins’ deal runs for three years and Smith’s contract is for five.


Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.


Quick Links

Justin Timberlake shows he has game at Wizards practice court

USA Today Sports Images

Justin Timberlake shows he has game at Wizards practice court

Apparently Justin Timberlake is also good at sports. The pop star showed he has a pretty decent jumpshot while playing on the Wizards' practice court on Sunday ahead of his concert at Capital One Arena.


Timberlake knocked down a halfcourt shot and then two three-pointers in a row. It was all shared on video through his Instagram account and then tweeted by the Wizards.


Wizards owner Ted Leonsis was among the many to attend Timberlake's concert and he put out a series of pictures and videos on social media:


Timberlake is also, of course, an NBA owner himself. He holds a minority stake in the Memphis Grizzlies. No wonder he's good at basketball. He can use their practice court any time he wants.

NBC Sports Washington is on Apple News. Favorite us!