The 2012-13 NBA D-League Title: Royce White's Missed Opportunity?

Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE

After leaving the Rockets' minor league squad just weeks short of them emerging as NBADL champions, is Royce White costing himself opportunities as Houston perhaps begins to run out of patience?

This week, the previously not-so-known Patrick Beverley has been front and center on a national stage. So far starting three games for the Rockets in their first-round playoff matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the guard has been doing what he can to help keep his underdog team alive.

The young guard's postseason has been highlighted by two 16 point performances and a near triple-double as he averages 12.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 4 assists.

Most casual NBA fans may not have heard of Beverley before the postseason, but the path he used to get there is one that is being more and more frequently traveled by fellow aspiring NBA players.

The Arkansas product was signed by the Rockets just a week into the year 2013, and found himself subsequently assigned to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, Houston's affiliate. Beverley began his NBADL stint during the league's Showcase in Reno, and appeared in two games after that.

After watching him put up similar numbers to what would become his current postseason averages, the Rockets were convinced Beverley had done enough to begin proving his worth. He was called back up to Houston and would go on to play 41 contests for the NBA squad. Of course, this was all before he recently emerged as a playoff starter.

Such an opportunity came about, undoubtedly, because of the type of promise and potential Beverley had initially shown in the D-League. Many players before him (and what's sure to be plenty more afterwards) have achieved similar success after first flashing their prowess in the minors.

But Beverley's fellow rookie and Rockets' teammate Royce White failed to capitalize on a similar opportunity of his own this season.

For all everyone knows, White may soon represent a pioneer of sorts when it comes to standing up for your rights as an individual. He continues to fight and urge the NBA for more thorough accommodations as it relates to those with anxiety disorders. He's fighting for a higher understanding.

But as he continues to stand up for what believes is right, White also keeps himself off the hardwood.

After initially refusing to report to RGV following two Rockets' formal assignments for him to do so, White finally reported to Houston's minor league affiliate in mid-February after reaching what he believed to be a reasonable temporary solution with regard to certain disorder accommodations. He came to town following months of trying to get him on the court.

And because of the long layover, White didn't exactly look like the player Houston had hoped they were acquiring upon drafting him. He looked rusty for an up and coming talent, and his skill-set, at the core, appeared very raw. He was rough around the edges, and didn't resemble much of the versatile big man known for doing all of the little things and helping maintain fluidity for his squad on both ends of the floor.

As expected, it took the forward some time to begin coming into his own. Despite a bevy of doubts, however, he started to do just that. White played in 16 games for the Vipers and his progress (in terms of the numbers he put up) was quite uneven. That said, over his final five games in RGV, he averaged an impressive 15.6 points (on 48% from the field), 5.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 1.4 steals in only 24.4 minutes per contest.

More important than the numbers, White looked good. He was steadily producing at a reasonable pace. What's more, he did in the flow of the team's system, even becoming a key contributor in the first five games of what would go on to become an overall sixteen-game winning streak. He began to look like that point-forward many knew him to be in college.

White's success may have continued, but he took matters into his own hands once again by opting not to join the Vipers for the postseason.

Rockets/Vipers' brass admittedly acquired D.J. Kennedy midseason in preparation that NBADL M.V.P. Andrew Goudelock would get called up to the NBA sometime soon. The St. John's alum went on to lead RGV to a minor league title in Goudelock's absence. Clearly, the Vipers couldn't prepare as though and/or depend on White to do the same thing.

Earlier this week, members of RGV were honored on the Toyota Center hardwood during halftime of a Rockets' playoff game to recognize their championship victory. The players have been commended, and there's no doubt the organization has continued to form a strong bond with each and every one of them.

Playing for the Rockets' D-League squad has clearly done wonders for many. Beverley and Greg Smith are contributors on Houston's playoff team, and the others who led RGV to a title can likely expect further looks from the big league team during Summer League.

After turning his back on the opportunity to emerge as a key NBADL playoff contributor, can White still expect the same consideration this summer? All off the court issues aside (and obviously with White, those very issues do make all the difference), one has to believe the Rockets may soon run out of patience.

There were plenty of young guns who went to work and aimed to prove themselves with the Vipers this season. It'll be interesting to see if they're given more of a commitment (with regard to each one's development) from Houston than White is.

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