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Tuesday February 21, 2012 0:36 AM

No Ordinary Rookie

Chandler Parsons conjures memories of Rockets past while helping lead Houston to big win over Grizz

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com




HOUSTON - In the beginning, there was Shane Battier. OK, OK, the former Rocket hasn’t been around that long, even though he’d be the first to admit he’s been on the basketball scene for what might seem like a (relative) eternity.

The exact timeline isn’t important, however. What is vital to the subject at hand is how Battier became the gold standard for guys whose contributions toward winning transcend the traditional box score. You’ve no doubt read about his status as the “No-Stats All-Star.” He mastered all the little things, searching for any edge he could find in his efforts to help his club emerge victorious: the outstretched hand in a shooter’s face; the expertly-delivered entry passes; his knack for winning jump balls against taller opponents. For all those reasons – and many, many more – Battier was beloved in Houston. Still is, in fact.

Which is precisely why Clutch City should be going gaga right now for Chandler Parsons.

The similarities are downright eerie. To be sure, Parsons and Battier are not clones, but the resemblance grows more striking by the game. It’s a kinship seen clearest in Parsons’ rapid ascension to the role of the Rockets’ designated wing stopper; a position in which the rookie takes pride and, more importantly, delivers results. His defense against Rudy Gay Monday night was magnificent, as was his role in the Rockets’ stifling fourth quarter defense which allowed Houston to grind out a much-needed 97-93 win over the Grizzlies.

The Battier-esque numbers from Parsons’ night: Gay needed 22 shots to get his 23 points as he was frequently forced to settle for perimeter jumpers with Parsons and the rest of the Rockets’ defenders doing well to limit his penetration. Along the way, the University of Florida product chipped in with 9 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, a steal and a block – and only one turnover – during 38 minutes of action.

Then there are the Battier-esque numbers from Parsons’ season so far (traditional box score version): he’s second on the team in total steals (39) and third in total blocks (17). Dig deeper and you’ll find stats like these: According to 82games.com, when Parsons defends small forwards his opponents’ Player Efficiency Rating is 13.1 (15 is what an average player would produce). Somewhat surprisingly, when Parsons slides over to the four the results get even better with his counterparts’ PER plummeting to 12.2 with an effective field goal percentage of .380.

Then, of course, there’s perhaps the most Battier statistic of them all: With Parsons in the starting lineup, the Rockets are 17-9.

None of this is by accident – Parsons admits that the Rockets coaches bring up Battier to him all the time and that he’s studied plenty of film in an effort to pick up anything he can from the way Battier approached the game. What it is, however, is amazing, especially when taking into consideration that this is a second round pick who was thrust into Houston’s starting lineup a mere eight games into the season after not having had the benefit of summer league, training camp or preseason. But by being a student of the game he has managed to make the most of his physical gifts, intelligence and skill set to establish himself as a valuable piece of the Rockets’ puzzle. Sound familiar?

“When I watch film with (Rockets assistant coach) Brett Gunning he always compares me to (Battier),” says Parsons. “He plays hard, plays good defense, can play multiple positions and I’ve watched film on him the way he plays, the way he moves, the way he tries to take away angles. H’s a great player and defender and they talk about him here all the time.”

Again, it’s worth repeating that for all the similarities, Parsons and Battier are not mirror images. The rookie still has work to do to hone his shooting stroke from that corner trey spot and the wings, and it goes without saying that 33 games of playing experience pales in comparison to the well-respected resume of someone who’s currently in his 11th year in the league. Then again, Battier never had Parsons’ ability to create off the dribble the way Parsons can, either.

But still, the resemblance is undeniable. It’s there in the way you hear the coaches rave about Parsons being the team-leader in terms of fewest defensive breakdowns. It’s there in his defensive versatility and his willingness to take on the challenge of defending the opponent’s best wing player, be it Rudy Gay, Kevin Durant or Monta Ellis. It’s there in the way he’s almost always in the right spots and always making the hustle plays. It’s even there in the fact that, despite not being a scoring machine, Parsons’ presence just seems to make the team’s offense flow a bit smoother and the ball movement a bit crisper.

But mostly, it’s there in the final numbers on the scoreboard at the end of the night. The Rockets are winning and Parsons is a big part of that, just as Battier was before him. The rookie still has a long way to go and big shoes to fill to fully earn that comparison. But night after night, Chandler Parsons is showing he’s up for the challenge.

And 1s: Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey announced Monday that forward Marcus Morris has been recalled from Houston’s single-affiliation NBA D-League partner Rio Grande Valley. Morris had re-joined the Vipers on Feb. 3.

Morris (6-9, 235, Kansas), who was selected by Houston with the 14th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, averaged 22.8 points, 9.1 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.40 steals in the 10 full games he has played with Rio Grande Valley this season. He made his debut with the Vipers by posting 33 points (13-24 FG), 16 rebounds, five assists and two steals vs. Dakota (1/6/12).

QUOTES

KEVIN MCHALE

(on Parsons’ defense): Chandler is a guy who’s got good length. And what he can do is he can play-make, too. So when we do go small, you don’t mind the ball going to him, especially if he’s got a big four on him; he’s able to put the ball on the floor and make plays. So he’s valuable on both ends of the ball – not only on defensively, but offensively (as well).

(On the game)  “They (Grizzlies) made some shots in the first half, they got in the paint. They (Grizzlies) made 38 points in the first half. That's kind of how they live. They drive and get in there. We started shutting that down. I though Patrick (Patterson) did a really nice job in the pick and roll coverage of (Marc) Gasol and we played that small line up quite a bit.”

(On the small line up) “Luis (Scola) and Sam (Dalembert) got in foul trouble in that 3rd quarter and I thought 'Oh boy.' We were able to withstand it and just keep playing. ”

(On if the small line up was counter intuitive) “Yeah kind of. At that point we didn't have a whole lot of options. I think if you go small and get some stuff moving and then the other team will go small as well. I knew Chandler (Parsons) could help us and do a decent job on cutting us a little bit more instead of getting (Marreese) Speights in there.”

COURTNEY LEE

(On the clear path foul)  “I was able to get the read on the pass and got the steal. Anytime you have the slight advantage on a defensive player, which I was ahead of him (O.J. Mayo) a little bit, and he fouled. It was an automatic clear path foul.

(On the timing of his scoring in the game) “The timing was very crucial. It happened at the right time and got the two free throws and then came down and hit a 3 (pointer). Anytime in the 4th quarter in a close stretch like that you can get a little bit of separation, those plays are huge.”

CHANDLER PARSONS

(if he studies Shane Battier): When I watch film with (Rockets assistant coach) Brett Gunning he always compares me to him. He plays hard, plays good defense, can play multiple positions and I’ve watched film on him the way he plays, the way he moves, the way he tries to take away angles. H’s a great player and defender and they talk about him here all the time.

(defending the likes of Rudy Gay and Kevin Durant): They’re really good players. I just try to make it hard for him and not give them anything easy. I try to take away what they do best. When you play guys like Durant and Monta Ellis and Rudy there are no nights off. You’re guarding the best player every night so it’s tough and it’s a challenge but it’s exciting for me. I just try to take advantage of the challenge and go at it and compete and really just make it hard for them. I know they’re going to hit some tough shots so basically I just try to make it hard for them and not let them get the ball where they want and try to play physical with them.

(why was defense so much better in second half?): I think they had 38 (points in the paint) in the first half and that was ridiculous so obviously we had to stop dribble penetration because we kept over-helping and they just got dunk upon dunk. We needed to get back in transition and I think we did a better job of getting back and limiting their penetration.

I think we were more solid. We didn’t allow blow-bys. We didn’t allow many more second chance opportunities, so I think we just toughened up and played better D in the second half.

(On the physicality of the game) “It was definitely exhausting but it was exciting. When it comes down to the end like that, the crowd gets into it and that's what you play for. I think we really played well and we really locked up in the 2nd half defensively.”

KYLE LOWRY

(On the Rockets playing physical tonight) “We had to go out there and play a little bit tougher than they (Memphis) did. I think that in the games that we've played in there place they definitely out-toughed us and tonight we made it a point to out-tough them.”

(On the team effort tonight) “Chandler (Parsons) played the four. He played big at the four. Patrick (Patterson) and Goran (Dragic) came in and gave us minutes and Courtney (Lee) came in and made those free throws at the end of the game and that’s always big. We got out there and we just tried to be physical tonight.”

LUIS SCOLA

(On Memphis) “Memphis is a tough team and they always play this way. It's always a tough game to play. We needed the win today and we got it so I am happy for that.”

(On the game slowing down in 2nd half) “It was kind of weird. It doesn't happen very often that Memphis plays that kind of game (like they played in the first half) but it happened in the first half and then the second half was a lot more similar to the way it should be.”

MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES COACH LIONEL HOLLINS

(On the game) “It was a hard fought game, both teams really came out with high-powered offense in the first half and in the second half, both teams shot under 40% and it became a grind it out type of game. Houston made more plays than we did and down the end we still had a stretch, a couple of opportunities to make threes that would have closed the gap and we didn’t get them, we played it right to the end. We got close, but we couldn’t make them flinch or blink at the free-throw line. They deserved to win.”

(On Grizzlies play) “We kept battling and had it back to within two. We didn’t lay down, we kept battling and they eventually won the game.”

RUDY GAY

(On the difference of the game) “Kyle was the difference, he controlled the game. It’s tough when he plays like that, when he drives, and shoots like that. He played really well.”

(On Grizzlies play) “We (Grizzlies) can’t back off them (Rockets) missing foul shots. We have to do our work early and we did for the most part, but we were a little lax in the second half, and that’s what happened. We started off bad, and were fighting back ever since then. Houston played us real tough and we were not able to come back at the end.”

MIKE CONLEY

(On the game) “Houston out worked us and definitely made the big plays. They converted on our misses and we didn’t convert on theirs. We just did not execute.”

(On match up with Lowry) “It’s always fun to compete against Kyle, we are really good friends off the court and we both play very hard against each other. It’s fun to play against him, he was the difference tonight. “

TONY ALLEN

(On the game)  “They moved the ball and were running their sets to a t. They showed more energy and wanted to make it a 2-1 series for the season. They were the aggressors and we let our claw down.”

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