Q&A With Chandler Parsons
Rockets' rookie reflects on debut season, development going forward and life as a heartthrob
HOUSTON - No one could have seen this coming. Entering the NBA as a second round draft pick, Rockets rookie Chandler Parsons had the deck stacked against him right from the very start. No summer league, no offseason workouts with his team and virtually no training camp to speak of. All the traditional avenues of early player development were shut off from him due to the lockout and unique circumstances surrounding the start of the season.
So how did Parsons respond? By waiting, watching, working and ultimately making the most of the opportunity before him when it finally arrived. The rookie from Florida was one of the great surprises of the Rockets' 2011-12 season, displaying a multi-dimensional skill set, tremendous defensive instincts and a veteran's mind for the game.
Best of all, Parsons is already back in the gym working to ensure he builds upon his initial success and comes back even better by the time next season rolls around. That's where Rockets.com's Jason Friedman caught up with him Tuesday afternoon, as the two talked about the ups and downs of the 2011-12 season and what lies in store for Parsons in the upcoming summer months and beyond. And for more on Parsons, be sure to check out the accompanying video as the rookie sits down to chat with FSHouston's Bart Enis as well.
JCF: Last December you were sitting right here behind the baseline of the practice court, watching your teammates while they took part in training camp. You hadn’t even signed a contract yet so you couldn’t get on the floor and join them. At that moment, was there any way on earth you could have imagined that you would end up having the sort of season you did?
CP: It was just frustrating because when you get drafted you expect to go to that city and start practicing right away and sign a deal. But for me, I had to go through a whole bunch of hoops like going overseas, playing in France for two months, no summer league and then with the whole Pau Gasol thing, I had to wait -- I think it was for the first seven days of training camp -- where I’m just sitting here in sandals watching the guys play because I hadn’t signed.
So it was kind of nerve-wracking but once I got here my agent told me not to worry. He told me just to watch practice, see what the coaches are looking for and, now, looking back on it I almost feel like I had an advantage. I saw how hard the guys worked and by the time I had signed I knew what I had to do. So I went in there, tried to play extremely hard, tried to play defense, tried to rebound and, looking back now, that experience turned into a real positive. But it was definitely a frustrating time not knowing the future and just having to sit here and watch my teammates practice while I wasn’t able to.
JCF: But while you were sitting there watching and thinking did you ever once imagine you’d be able to get in there and contribute the way you ultimately did?
CP: Yeah, I think so. I’m always confident when I play. I feel like I can play with the best of them. When I was sitting here I was frustrated and scared since I was getting further and further behind every day, but I always thought I could come in and fit in. With Coach McHale’s system I felt like I could be good for him and our team. Even while watching, I definitely felt like I could come in and help us out.
JCF: Well you definitely received a baptism by fire because when you did end up starting your first assignment was to go up against Kevin Durant, right?
CP: Yep, my first start was the seventh game of the season against the Thunder here and he hit the game-winner on me. But that was actually pretty cool because my dad was randomly here for a conference in Houston and my mom had come out with him so they were actually here for my first start.
JCF: So your parents got to see you fail right off the bat ...
CP: Yep, they got to see me get wetted on the first start of my career (laughs). But yeah, if you’re asking if I’m surprised to be starting in the NBA, contributing and playing well after everything I had to go through, in some ways I was definitely surprised. But at the same time, I’m very confident in my ability.
JCF: So you had a rough ending to your first start but in all seriousness, you defended Durant very well that game and sort of set the tone for what you would do defensively later on against some of the best scorers the game has to offer. Sure, guys got their points, but you made them work hard and frequently made them take a ton of tough shots along the way, which is exactly what you have to do -- transform them into volume scorers, not efficient scorers.
CP: Right, Durant had 27 points that game but it took him 25 shots to get there. When I play against guys like him, especially that night, I just try to play harder than anyone on the floor and don’t worry about offense or making shots -- that was just going to come to me -- I was just trying to play defense on him and make it as difficult for him as I can which I did, but being him he’s going to hit tough shots and he hit one at the end. But when you play against guys like that you just try not to give them anything easy and try to take away what they like to do.
JCF: I have a feeling I know the answer to this next question but I have to ask it anyway. After going up against KD, Kobe, LeBron, Monta Ellis and all those scoring machines, who was the toughest cover for you?
CP: That’s tough, because all those guys are different. It’s like, when we played LeBron the second to last game of the year I knew he was going to be ultra aggressive because Bosh and Wade were out. Playing against him, he’s so strong and I’ve never seen anyone as physically strong as him. Kobe, when I play him, I just try to use my size and try to make him shoot over me, but he’s going to hit those. And Durant, he’s kind of like me: he can dribble, he can shoot, he’s fast, he’s long. Even Gallinari and Michael Beasley, those guys are really good. But I would say the toughest matchup would be Kobe.
JCF: Really? Tougher than LeBron? Because I thought LeBron’s power/speed combo would be the toughest for you.
CP: Yeah, it’s definitely one of those two because when LeBron is hitting outside shots you can’t guard him because he can post-up, he can get to the basket but he’s also a great passer; he gets his teammates involved. So he could actually score a lot more points than he actually does. Going up against him, he could shoot the ball a lot more than he does; he’s a very unselfish player and in some ways that almost makes Kobe more difficult because, with Kobe, you know every possession he’s coming at you.
JCF: One more question about your rookie campaign. It’s been a couple weeks since the regular season ended, have you been able to take a step back, assess what happened the last few weeks of the season and compartmentalize that pain so that you can move forward and, ideally, use it as motivation to get better in the future?
CP: Yeah, it definitely hurts. The feeling that we had is going to be there for awhile because we had our destiny and future in our own hands.
JCF: Are you watching the playoffs?
CP: Yeah, watching the playoffs is tough. Watching the Jazz, Mavericks and Nuggets, those are all teams we played the last stretch of the season. And it’s impossible not to think, ‘That should be us.’ But we let it slip, so watching them is frustrating and it hurts.
Individually, looking back I did some good things this year but now I can see what I can improve upon. And hopefully for both myself and as a team we can use what we went through this year at the end of the season as a means to get better and grow. We missed out on the experience of actually playing in the playoffs but we understand now how hard it is and what it takes to get in.
JCF: So what’s the big focus for you this summer? When we see you back here for training camp in October, what will you be able to do then that you couldn’t do this past season?
CP: I want to work on three things in particular. I’m going to work on all aspects of my shot: 3-pointers, spot shooting, free throws -- just being a more consistent shooter because I think once I get guys scared that I can shoot the ball, that will open up my whole game and make it easier for me to pass, penetrate and get to the hole. So I definitely want to be more of a consistent shooter.
Secondly, I want to get stronger. When these bigger guys post me up on the block and I slide to the four, I need to be able to handle my own down there. It’s a physical game so obviously added strength will help me.
And then third, just ball handling. I want to be in pick-and-rolls next year, I want to have the ball in my hands and I want to be comfortable making plays for others and getting guys the ball. So those three things are going to be what I’m focusing on and working extremely hard on.
JCF: What are you going to do for fun?
CP: I’ve got a couple things planned. I’m going to Nevis. It’s in the Caribbean and supposed to be one of the top-10 beaches in the world. I’m going to take my parents there and I’m also going to Antigua -- my brother goes to medical school there so I’m going there along with three of my best friends. I’m going to go to LA and train with my agency. And the Rockets have also invited me to go to New York City for the draft lottery show.
But the biggest thing for me right now is just getting my shoulder healthy. I leave here Monday and I’m going to go to Gainesville and train with my trainer down in Florida. After that I’ll take a little bit of time off but then I’m going to get right back in the gym.
JCF: Are you doing summer league this year?
CP: It’s kind of up in the air. I’m definitely going to go; I want to be with the team and be with all the new guys. I just don’t know how much I’m going to play.
JCF: Last question. I remember the first time I talked to you it was the day after the draft and I made some sort of comment about how you seemed like the type to either be interested in or be a member of a boy band. Since that time you’ve clearly grabbed a stranglehold on the pre-teen female demographic in Houston. Do your teammates harass you about this nearly as much as they should be?
CP: (laughs) A little bit. Guys will make fun of me for my hair or for me wearing tank tops and stuff like that. But as long as the females around here appreciate it I don’t really care what the guys think.
JCF: Do you scope out Twilight posters and craft your look around those? Or do you watch Justin Bieber videos instead and pick up style tips from him?
CP: You know what? I’m not gonna lie, I’m a Justin Bieber fan. I know people who hate on him, but he does his thing, he gets paid ...
JCF: He gets to walk out with Floyd Mayweather ...
CP: Yeah, I don’t know why people ever hate on him. He’s just doing his thing.
JCF: Yep, your teammates clearly don’t give you enough grief about this. Thanks, Chandler.