Out Of The Shadows
Chandler Parsons' all-around play becoming impossible to ignore
HOUSTON - Maybe it’s the boy band looks. Perhaps it’s the remnants of the stigma that attaches itself to every NBA player selected in the second round. Or maybe it’s simply the fact that his fundamentally sound skill set is geared more toward winning basketball than highlight reel appearances.
Whatever the case may be, it’s so easy to overlook Chandler Parsons, so simple to take him for granted. So often he glides through the game undetected, doing all the little things that typically fly below the radar while his more recognizable teammates grab the highlights and headlines. He’ll burst on the scene every once in awhile with one of those Chandler “Bang” moments, but far more often it’s the subtle nuance of his game that really stands out: the smart, versatile defense, the way he crashes the glass, the extra pass he makes that leads to an open three.
Such is frequently the fate of most quintessential glue guys and Parsons is no exception, nor does he really care whether or not he’s on the receiving end of an endless stream of accolades. But after watching him come through in the clutch once again while delivering yet another big fourth quarter to help propel Houston to a 101-89 win over Boston, perhaps it’s time to ask if Parsons truly is just a glue guy after all.
The 24-year-old is hardly a No-Stats All-Star; not when averaging nearly 16 points and more than six rebounds and three assists per game. And certainly not on a night when he approached a triple-double by stuffing the box score to the tune of 15 points, nine rebounds, a career-high eight assists and two steals. Parsons put in the work this summer, elevated nearly every facet of his game and has spent a significant portion of this season openly mocking the notion of a sophomore slump with his play.
“Everyone kept talking about this sophomore slump,” said Parsons,” but I never really believed in it. It’s all mental and all what you make of it. I really wanted to work on my all-around game this summer and I did that. I trained with my trainer in Orlando everyday, going hard, working on my shot, working on my strength, my ball-handling and it’s really paying off because now. When I’m playing in games, the game’s coming slower, easier and I’m just much more confident in my shot and I want to get to the free throw line.
“I knew that I was capable of doing this, I knew my coaching staff believes in me and I knew I was going to get an opportunity. I just worked really hard on the things Coach McHale told me to work on. He told me that every time I get a rebound to go with it, so I worked on my ball-handling, I worked on making decisions, just so that when the season came, I’d be ready.”
He’s done that and then some, improving significantly beyond the arc and at the line while nudging his assist rate forward as well. It’s all heady stuff for a player who’s wasted little time during his first two seasons as a pro earning a reputation for rising to the occasion in the biggest moments and against the biggest names. This season he’s enjoyed his two highest scoring nights when facing off against LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, and this week alone saw him drain back-to-back-to-back three-pointers in the fourth quarter versus San Antonio, record 11 points in the final frame against Washington, and dish out four fourth quarter assists facing the Celtics – the final one following a terrific steal of Rajon Rondo that ultimately led to Parsons finding Toney Douglas open in the corner for the dagger trey.
Not too shabby for a guy who fell all the way to 38th overall on draft night. And make no mistake, that slip still spurs the 24-year-old on every day. Parsons remembers every single team that overlooked him – especially those that passed on him twice – and still recalls a well known national TV analyst declaring that he would make a lot of money in his career playing basketball … in Europe. Little wonder then that Parsons says he uses those memories to pump himself up prior to the tip-off of every game.
“Draft night was a rough night for me because I thought I was a first round draft pick,” he admits. “But my dream was to play in the NBA and I’m fortunate and blessed enough that the Rockets drafted me. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I’m so happy that I did get to that 38th spot because the Rockets are perfect for me and I think I’m perfect for them.”
There’s little doubt the feeling is mutual. Whether he ultimately settles into the role of quintessential glue guy or becomes something greater, the Rockets realize just how lucky they are to have Chandler Parsons. His game might lend itself to being taken for granted, but his impact and importance to the team are valued mightily every single time he steps on the floor.
(On Toney Douglas in the fourth quarter)
Toney’s been fantastic. I’ll tell you what, Jeremy had a really good third quarter. I’m thinking, ok, I’m going to go back to Jeremy, maybe play Jeremy and Toney a little bit together, but Toney started playing so good that I was like, man, I guess I’ll just let him go. That group did a great job of moving the ball and getting open.
(On team play) “Chandler had a really nice game. He did a good job defensively. He had some steals at times when we needed them. He moved the ball. We got a little jammed up in the second quarter and then we really started moving. I thought James(Harden) getting the ball and going fast and then breaking it down and finding guys. Greg Smith had a good game. He was hanging around the basket and being available. It was a good win for us. I thought Chandler played very well. I thought he, James, Tony (Douglas) and Jeremy (Lin) all drove and kicked and made plays. Carlos made a couple big shots that we needed and stretched the court out for us. We had a lot of guys that played great for us.”
(On Greg Smith's development) “Greg's a real diligent worker. He kind of knows his game. The thing I'm impressed with Greg is that he catches everything. The guy's got like big baseball gloves for hands. He's got like good balance and can finish. He was a guy that I was thinking about going back to because he finishes so well and I knew that we would have space. They were going to over compensate to James, they were going to over compensate to Jeremy. They were going to over compensate so if you roll behind there is going to be some openings and Greg did a great job of presenting himself, catching and finishing around the basket.”
(On the win) “It's always good to protect home court and get this win. Especially against a team like the Boston Celtics. They're a great team, they're experienced, they've been in this situation many times before. It's a big win but obviously, we've got a lot of things to clean up, turnovers in the first half. We had way too many but I thought we tightened it up in the second half. We started moving the ball and playing unselfish, making the extra pass and getting out in transition.”
(On the Rockets team effort) “We don't have individuals who are selfish or anything like that. We are a great, deep balanced team. Anyone can hurt you on any given night. Greg Smith was unbelievable. Just finishing the ball tonight. Toney has been great the last couple of weeks and everyone does something differently and everyone brings that spark for us and we've got to continue to do that throughout the rest of the season.”
(difference between last year and this year)
I feel great. I had a big summer. Everyone kept talking about this sophomore slump. I never really believed in it. It’s all mental and all what you make of it, but I really wanted to work on my all-around game this summer and I did that. I trained with my trainer in Orlando everyday: just going hard, working on my shot, working on my strength, my ball-handling and it’s really paying off because now, when I’m playing in games, the game’s coming slower, easier and I’m just much more confident in my shot. I want to get to the free throw line. Defensively I’ve always been fine, I don’t worry about that, but just being aggressive and just having that swag and that confidence on the court.
I thought I was capable of it and I always was confident. I knew that I was capable of doing this, I knew my coaching staff believes in me and I knew I was going to get an opportunity. I just worked really hard on the things Coach McHale told me to work on. He told me that every time I get a rebound to go with it, so I worked on my ball-handling, I worked on making decisions, just so that when the season came, I’d be ready.
(feel as if teams overlook or underestimate you?)
I think they still do. I was drafted 38th. It doesn’t take a genius to look at my draft class and see what’s going on. I don’t hold a grudge. I use that as motivation. The Celtics had the 25th pick – they took JaJuan Johnson. Little things like that, they motivate me. Draft night was a rough night for me because I thought I was a first round draft pick. But my dream was to play in the NBA and I’m fortunate and blessed enough that the Rockets drafted me and I’m in a perfect situation. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Who knows what I’d be if I were on a different team. I’m so happy that I did get to that 38th spot because the Rockets are perfect for me and I think I’m perfect for them – just the system, Coach McHale, I love the city and everything about it. So it hurt at the time and I can tell you every single team that passed on me in the draft and I think about that every jump ball.
(On controlling the game) “It felt good. We learned from the past two games with Dallas (Mavericks) and the (San Antonio) Spurs being up. Don't let the pedal go, keep pushing the ball tempo. Keep playing we learned how to sustain our lead from five to ten to fifteen (points). I think we learned from those past two games with what we did tonight.”
(On the play of Greg Smith) “He's playing good. We're going to need that from him every time, every game. The more consistent he is, the more better it is for our team because it opens up so much stuff for us. When he is scoring, and we are creating and they (defense) are helping and dumping him off for dunks and “and 1's”. He'll be fine, that's a good thing. We need him.
(On controlling the game) “It felt good. We knew they were coming from the double overtime game in Dallas and knew they were tired. We came out and pushed the issue, forced it in and tried to run. They're a half court offense. They want to slow it down and run plays, be tough and be physical with you. So we just ran and got the win tonight.”
(On his 20 points) “It felt good. I was in right spots at the right time. My teammates were looking for me and had confidence in me. So I knew if they passed the ball to me the best thing I could do is finish it. Don't go out there be soft, go out there and finish strong. If I missed a shot work as hard as I can so I can dunk it and try to get the foul and that's what I did.”
(On the win) “Tonight was a key win for us. With losing three in a row and then coming off a win against Washington (Wizards) which was kind of shaky. Tonight I think we played pretty well in spurts. They (Celtics) went on a run in the second quarter. But other than, I think we played very well.”
(On the play of Greg Smith) “Unbelievable. In big games he steps up. He did a great job of finishing around the basket and he played some great defense against their bigs as well. He is learning. He is getting more playing time and the more playing time he gets he's going to be better.”
BOSTON CELTICS COACH DOC RIVERS
(On the third quarter) “Well, the first and third, I thought we started out flat at the beginning of the game and in the third quarter too. I thought our defense between the first and second quarter was fantastic against a good high scoring team. We played terrific defense in the second quarter. We came out flat and with no energy and I felt that we never got back into the game. We had some runs, but I never felt like we were going to win the game tonight. I don’t know why and I’m disappointed in the loss.”
(What do you get out of a game like this) “I don’t know yet. I have to watch the film and I have to do a better job of preparing the team. I have to do a better job of playing the right guys. Everybody shouldn’t play every night the way we’re playing. We have to figure this out. This was a step backwards for us.”
(On Chandler Parsons) “He’s terrific. He is playing great, confident basketball. I thought defensively he was great. I thought he got into Paul (Pierce) and did a great job and he scored on him on the other end. Overall, Houston wins a lot of individual match ups. Houston basically circled around the three point line and played one-on-one and our guys couldn’t cover them.”
(On his son, Austin Rivers, career-high of 27 points) “That was the best I’ve heard all day. You made my day.”
(On the game) “We came out real slow to start the game and we picked it up in the second quarter. We’re still trying to put four quarters today. You can’t play every other quarter and expect to win games. You can’t fight on your heels all night if you want to win. We have a job to do. We have to come out and play to the best of our ability. There are no excuses. You just can’t look back and try to figure things out.”
(On the game) “We have schemes and you can put it on the bigs, but at the end of the day we are all out there together. The scheme doesn’t involve one or two people, it involves all five. In the third quarter, I don’t think we stopped them any time they came down the court. We need to create some kind of defensive consistency, and we just weren’t able to do that. The second half, Houston got into a rhythm that was undeniable.”
(On returning to Houston) “It was a good one. I got to see a lot of people that work behind close doors. The Rockets staff, the people that work in the arena, and I got to visit with a couple of new guys with the media. It was a good visit. I got a chance to talk with Coach McHale and that was some thing that I wanted to do.”
(On the emotions at the end of the game on the court) “It was very emotional. I saw Coach McHale talking with Coach (Doc) Rivers and then I got to go over and give him a hug and talk for a little bit. I saw the tears rolling down his face and it was definitely an emotional time for me.”
(On the key to the game) “They made shots. We got off to bad starts to start the game and to start the third quarter and they took advantage of it and got the lead. It was just tough from jump. We put ourselves in a hole and then we try and fight back and you may be exhausted or whatever the case may be and then they make another run. It was a reoccurring thing. We missed a lot of good looks, missed lay-ups, and missed some open jumpers, and that’s all part of the game. That can’t affect the way we get back defensively and Houston took advantage of those opportunities.”
The Rockets registered a 101-89 win over Boston tonight, outscoring the Celtics by a 58-44 count in the second half.
Houston held Boston to 89 points tonight on 34-of-85 (.400) shooting. In the last meeting between these two teams at Toyota Center (3/18/11), the Rockets kept the Celtics to a 2010-11 opponent season-low 77 points (1-10 3FG). The Rockets 101-89 victory extended Houston’s active franchise-record for consecutive victories when holding an opponent under 90 points to 34 in a row (last loss: 81-84 on 3/3/10 vs. Sacramento).
Houston scored 22 points off 13 Boston turnovers tonight and ran off with a 25-11 edge in fast-break points. The Rockets also outscored the Wizards by a 24-13 count off the break in their prior game vs. Washington (12/12/12).
The Celtics made an opponent season-high 15 steals tonight, which was the first time an opponent has had at least 15 steals in a game since a 15-theft night by the Lakers back in 2008-09 at Houston (3/11/09).
James Harden recorded a team-high 21 points (6-17 FG, 7-8 FT), five boards, five assists and three steals tonight. Harden has now posted 20-plus points in each of his last four games played (12/7/12-12/14/12), averaging 30.0 points per game over this stretch.
Greg Smith finished with 20 points (8-9 FG), six rebounds and three blocks tonight. Smith now has at least three blocks in each of his last three games. The last Rockets player to string together three such games was Samuel Dalembert (3 in a row: 1/27/12-1/30/12). Smith now owns two career 20-point performances, registered a career-high 21 points (7-8 FG, 7-8 FT) vs. the L.A. Lakers (12/4/12).
Chandler Parsons posted 15 points (5-7 FG), nine rebounds, a career-high eight assists and two steals tonight. Parsons surpassed his previous career best of seven assist vs. Charlotte (3/14/12).
Omer Asik pulled down another 10 rebounds tonight, giving him three consecutive 10-plus rebounding games (12/10/12-12/14/12).
Jeremy Lin totaled seven assists and two blocks tonight. Lin now has four multi-block games on the season, which matches Tyreke Evans (four) for the most such games in the NBA by a guard this season.
Toney Douglas continued his run with 11 points (2-3 3FG) tonight, giving him double-figure scoring in a season-high six straight games (12/4/12-12/14/12). Over these six outings, Douglas has gone 17-of-31 (.548) from beyond the arc.
Paul Pierce led four Celtics in double-digit scoring with 18 points (5-18 FG), a team-high seven rebounds, three assists and three steals. Pierce was coming off a season-high 34 points (11-25 FG, 9-11 FT) vs. Dallas (12/12/12).
Rajon Rondo had 15 points (6-13 FG), 13 assists and four steals tonight, marking his most assists in a game against the Rockets. Rondo has now recorded five career double-digit assist games against the Rockets, including his previous high of 12 assists in 2010-11 at Boston (1/10/11) and 12 dimes last season at Boston (3/6/12).
Kevin Garnett added 14 points (6-12 FG) and five rebounds tonight. Garnett had 13 points (5-8 FT), 13 boards and two blocks last season against the Rockets at Boston (3/6/12).