The Houston Rockets won the summer. Now, it’s time to win the season too.
The Rockets’ season tips off tonight against the visiting Charlotte Bobcats, and much of the Twitter talk surrounding the team is focused on free-agent acquisition Dwight Howard and All-Star guard James Harden. The difference between a hopeful fall and a win-filled spring, though, might actually be Chandler Parsons.
With not much expected of Parsons last season, his second in the League, the 6-9 forward broke out in a big way. Over the course of 76 starts, the 38th selection in the 2011 Draft averaged 15.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 3.5 apg and answered any questions about his viability as a plus NBA player along the way.
Entering his third season, with an encore campaign expected, Parsons won’t catch defenses or fans off guard. What he will do, though, is whatever Coach McHale asks of him. Be it score, pass, rebound or defend, Parsons hopes to help bring a title to Houston.
We spoke with Parsons about that and much more, courtesy of a Call of Duty: Ghost promotional run, on the eve of the game’s release and the NBA season.
SLAM: So what are you more excited for: to get your copy of COD: Ghost or to play your first game on Wednesday?
Chandler Parsons: You know that’s gonna be tough [to answer], but I’m ready for the season to get started. Playing the game is a good distraction.
SLAM: Between plane rides and hotel rooms, do you have more time to play video games during the season or during the summer?
CP: You do a little bit during the season. Guys like to game in the hotel and on the plane, but definitely during the offseason. You’ve got to stay focused on basketball.
SLAM: Do you play online at all or are you more of a campaign guy?
CP: Yeah, I like to get online a little bit when I can. I never let people know who I am, though. I kind of get on and mess around. I’m gonna get into the game this year. I actually went to their studio with [Luis] Scola two years ago. We got to meet everybody and see behind the scenes, which was awesome.
SLAM: Opportunities like that are of the biggest perks of being a player that people don’t think about.
CP: Oh, definitely. It’s cool to see how all of that stuff is done. If you’re interested a little bit, you go in there and it piques your interest even more.
SLAM: Do you have a favorite experience that you’ve gotten to take part in only because of who you are?
CP: I think the access you get to stuff, whether it’s award shows or access to certain places, that’s a perk that I enjoy and never take for granted.
SLAM: When you do play video games like COD, are you a big smack talker?
CP: Yeah, always. I like to get into it a little bit. But I’ve got to make sure my skills are up to par. I don’t want to be talking unless I can back it up.
SLAM: So it’s fair for you to talk smack on the basketball court because you know your skills are up to par?
CP: (Laughs) Yeah, I’m gonna talk a little bit out there. But I’ve also got to back it up.
SLAM: I’m sure Mark Jackson has an opinion on smack talk.
CP: Yup, yup.
SLAM: You took a giant leap from Year 1 to Year 2 and surprised a lot of people in the process. What did you work on this summer to help you surprise people again?
CP: Well, in all honesty this was the hardest-working summer I’ve ever had. I spent a lot of time in Los Angeles with my trainer, Rob McClanaghan, working out my all-around game every day with John Wall and Kevin Love. I wanted to make sure that I’m going to be strong enough to compete in the post. Obviously, I got a lot of shots up. I just want to continue to build myself as an overall player.
SLAM: You’re a good player in your own right, but what’s it like working out with big name guys like Wall and Love?
CP: You know, it’s great because you respect their games and want to be able to play at their level. You hope that it improves your level of play, and I think that’s what the best thing about it is. It’s not really saying, ‘Oh, I’m going against this guy or that guy.’ It’s more knowing they’re going to play to their high level and in order to be competitive with them you’re going to have to play at that same high level.
SLAM: I was going to say, you can talk smack. It’s OK to say you held your out there with them this summer.
CP: I did alright, but we’ll let that happen on the court during the season and everybody else can do the talking for me.
SLAM: There were no expectations placed on you before your rookie season and very few last season. Now I feel like the team and the media are big-upping you. Do you feel differently coming into your third season?
CP: I think we’re all aware of the expectations, but that comes with what we wanted. We’re just going to come into the season knowing that we want to be in contention for a Championship. That’s going to be the team goal and everybody is going to work towards that.
SLAM: Were you surprised at all last season by how great James Harden played, especially after being acquired right before the first game?
CP: I don’t think “surprised” is the right word. I’d played against him, so I knew how talented he was, but seeing him day in and day out, I think he’s the best shooting guard in the NBA. He’s an unbelievable player. It’s great to be able to play off a guy like that, and I think having Dwight [Howard] added to the mix is going to make us very competitive.
SLAM: Last summer you picked up Harden, arguably the best shooting guard in the League, this time you picked up Howard, arguably the best center.
CP: I think that’s a fair thing to say. I don’t mind having that said.
SLAM: Because of that acquisition, do you think you’re role is going to be different this year?
CP: My role is going to be a lot of different things based on the flow of the offense, who we’re playing, where I am defensively. I had a good year last year—that wasn’t a fluke—and I think I have a lot to add to the team. I just want to help us win; that’s the most important thing.
SLAM: You play with a chip on your shoulder. You had that at Florida too, but is some of it because you were drafted 38th?
CP: At first, that’s what motivated me. Now that I’ve been in the League, I see all these great players and want to be competitive with them and be able to win. That’s what ultimately drives me the most.
SLAM: Are there any players out there that you use as a measuring stick for yourself?
CP: No, I don’t think there’s any guys who I look at and say, “I want to be on that level.” I think LeBron [James] is the best player in the League right now and when you play against him you want to be competitive. If you can do that, you’re doing the right things.
SLAM: Right. Well, is there any player you look forward to playing against more than others?
CP: It’s kind of the same thing. I like a challenge. I like playing against those guys—LeBron, Kevin Durant. You want to go out there and having a really good showing against them. But every night in the League, I look at who I’m going against and they’re a really good basketball player. You’ve got to be ready every night.
SLAM: I don’t know if you know this, but you’re a big name in fantasy basketball this season. Do you follow fantasy at all?
CP: No, I actually don’t. People tell me [that I’m a name in it] but I’m not a big fantasy guy.
SLAM: The thought is that you fill every statistical category. That’s what wins in fantasy, and I guess that’s what wins in real life too.
CP: I think that’s fair to say. You want to go and affect the stat sheet in every column, so I’ll try to do my best for all those guys that are drafting me.
SLAM: Aside from your fantasy owners, what do you think Coach McHale expects out of you?
CP: A lot of the things I said. That’s where I get my mindset from—having a good relationship and communicating with my coaches and believing in them. I think we’re all on the same page as far as that goes.
SLAM: What’s it like having McHale, a Hall of Famer, on the bench and having Hakeem Olajuwon, another Hallof Famer, around the team a lot?
CP: We’re very fortunate. [McHale] is one of the greatest to ever do it, and to be able to sit there and have his stories and his knowledge is something I hope everybody appreciates. I think it has and will help me a lot.
SLAM: You were the sleeper on the team last year. Is there anyone on the team this year that you think is going to catch people off guard?
CP: We’ve got a lot of young guys that are going to do a lot of stuff. Patrick Beverley is playing really well. Jeremy Lin had a really good summer. Terrence Jones is a young guy who I think is really talented. Omri Casspi has been playing unbelievable, so I think we have a great bench and we’re going to be really good and have a special year.