BOSTON — Chris Babb doesn’t enjoy losing, but the undrafted rookie had a tough time leaving the locker room Wednesday without a smile on his face.
Just days removed from a call-up from the D-League, Babb scored the first five points of his NBA career in the Boston Celtics’ ugly loss to the Golden State Warriors. Few people outside the team’s immediate sphere noticed the former Iowa State guard’s modest five-point, five-rebound line, but he wasn’t surprised to see Royce White’s name pop up on his cell phone later that night.
White and Babb are close friends, not just former teammates, as evidenced by the fact that White actually called Babb — rather than send an easier, though less personal, text message. Good, old-fashioned voice-to-voice conversations are common for two guys whose roads to the pros have been anything but easy.
“We talk all the time, but we don’t really talk basketball,” Babb said. “He has a lot going on. We just talk families, music, anything. He’s been one of my good friends for the last few years.”
Two years ago, it was almost unthinkable that Babb would beat White to the NBA. The Houston Rockets took White 16th overall in the 2012 NBA draft and promised to work with White through an anxiety disorder that included, among numerous other symptoms, a fear of flying. The Celtics appeared to be a potential landing spot, but he was off the board before their selection came up at No. 21.
Although the particulars are in dispute, White and the Rockets never panned out. He played in the D-League and eventually was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers, with whom he never played a game. He signed a 10-day contract with the Sacramento Kings on Thursday, the same type of deal Babb received from the Celtics.
“I definitely think he deserves a shot,” Babb said. “He’s a different guy, and it’s going to take the right program, the right staff, the right all-around fit for him to succeed. If Sacramento thinks they can do that, he can be a very good player.”
It doesn’t surprise Babb that White has reportedly been a mentor of sorts with Cyclones guard DeAndre Kane, who has his own speckled past. Despite the negative judgments many people who haven’t met White have made about his personality, Babb said he is a caring person who is misunderstood.
“He’s a helpful person,” Babb said. “He just wants to do good, not just for himself and his family, but other people who are struggling with the same things he’s struggling with. He’s done nothing but try to help those people. He’s seen a lot. He knows a lot. He just wants to help as many people as he can.”
If White eventually helps himself to a few minutes in the NBA, Babb owes him a phone call. Babb got an opportunity; now he’s hoping his friend gets one as well.