AP Sports Writer
HOUSTON (AP) -- The Houston Rockets head into Thursday's draft with a lone second-round pick at No. 34 and the debacle of last year's Royce White pick hanging over them.
Houston had three first-round selections last year and chose White with the second at No. 16. White did not appear in a game for the Rockets last season because of an acknowledged anxiety disorder.
The Rockets reached the playoffs for the first time since 2009 and rallied from a 3-0 first-round deficit before being eliminated by Oklahoma City in Game 6.
Their return to the playoffs showed they have plenty of speed and long-range scoring power with James Harden, Jeremy Lin and Chandler Parsons. It also illuminated the need for another big man to be a presence inside and help with rebounding.
White, a 6-foot-8 power forward, was supposed to help fill that role last season. Houston chose him after a season at Iowa State, where he helped the Cyclones to their first NCAA tournament berth in seven years by leading the team in scoring (13.4 points a game), rebounds (9.3), assists (5.0), steals (1.2) and blocks (0.9).
White missed the first week of training camp to work with the Rockets to create an arrangement to deal with his anxiety disorder within the demands of the NBA's travel schedule. He and the team agreed to allow him to travel by bus to some games while he confronted his fear of flying and obsessive-compulsive disorder. He flew to Detroit with the team for the season opener and then traveled by bus to Atlanta and Memphis for games.
But he soon stopped participating in team activities and said on Twitter that dealing with his mental health took precedence over his NBA career. He first refused an assignment to the Development League, before finally relenting and joining Rio Grande Valley in February.
The Rockets still hope he will eventually be able to help the team. But for now he's a big question mark and takes down the value of last year's draft.
Despite White's problems, the Rockets still received some benefit from last year's draft. Jeremy Lamb, their first selection last season, was shipped to Oklahoma City in the trade that brought Harden to Houston. They also selected Terrence Jones at No. 18 and he appeared in 19 games for the Rockets, averaging 5.5 points and 3.4 rebounds.
Houston has found recent success in the second round of the draft. They grabbed Parsons with the 38th selection in 2011, and he has developed into a solid starter and averaged 15.5 points last season. He was even better in the playoffs when Lin was ailing, averaging 18.2 points a game against the Thunder.
Parsons said after the series against Oklahoma City that he thought Houston showed its potential for the future in those games.
"The world saw that we have a chance to be really good," he said.
He became a nice complement to Harden, who thrived in his first season as a starter after playing off the bench in his first three seasons with Oklahoma City.
Harden averaged a career-high 25.9 points as he showed that he was capable of being a superstar in leading the NBA's youngest team back to the playoffs.
The trade for Harden came just before the start of last season, which left the Rockets little time to get a feel for their new leader before getting started. After the Rockets were eliminated from the playoffs, he said he was looking forward to what the team could do in his second year with ample time to get used to one another.
"Now we have an entire summer together," Harden said. "This was definitely a great learning experience, but now we can use the summertime to get better."
He thinks the extra time will help improve the team in many ways.
"Confidence, chemistry -- everything," Harden said. "Kind of knowing where each other will be on the court. Getting a feel for each other off the court will help us just as much on the court. So, it's going to help us build our relationship up. We have a core group of guys that love to work and want to win."
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