Houston Rockets' Chandler Parsons makes a dunk against the Los Angeles Lakers in Los Angeles, Wednesday, April 17. The Lakers won 99-95 in overtime. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
That one word sums up the brief roundtable interview with Houston Rocket Chandler Parsons last April 19. And Parsons used that word at least five times when talking about this incredible regular season for Houston.
There were only three players from last the last campaign who were in a Houston uniform when the new NBA season tipped off: reserve center Greg Smith, power forward Patrick Patterson and small forward Parsons.
The Rockets went into last season with the news that longtime franchise center Yao Ming called it a career. They had to make do with a team that was left over from Yao’s teams. This squad, assembled in head coach Kevin McHale’s second year in Houston, didn’t look to click at first. After all, none of the new players were considered the best of their team.
For James Harden, he was the sixth man on a darn good Oklahoma team. Jeremy Lin played a stretch of fantastic games but faded late in the season. Omer Asik was a backup center with the Chicago Bulls.
But these Rockets turned themselves into one of the most exciting teams in the NBA. From a 34-32 record the previous year, good enough for, fourth in the Southwest Division and 18th in the league standings.
This year, the Rockets finished eighth in the Western Conference with a 45-37 record and a playoff berth. They were second overall in the NBA in scoring with 106.0 points per game. Seventh overall in rebounds per game with 43.4 boards. And sixth in the league in the assists department dropping 23.2 dimes an outing.
“Not a lot of people thought we were going to be good this early on,” remarked Parsons. “Maybe they thought it’d take us a little longer to get used to playing with each other but we’re all very good high character guys that just enjoy playing with each other. Very unselfish and humble guys so I think as far as people’s expectations I think we surpassed them but we have way higher expectations for ourselves and for our team than most of the media do.”
And six Rockets are scoring in double figures – Harden (25.9), Parsons (15.5), Lin, (13.4), Paterson (11.6), Carlos Delfino (10.6), and Asik (10.1). No other team in the NBA has that many double digit scorers.
Parsons is doing even with the presence of Harden and Lin who could score some. In fact, he’s hiked up his stats from the previous year – 15.5 to 9.5 points, 5.3 rebounds to 4.8, and 3.5 assists to 2.1.
Jeremy Lin, left, Chandler Parsons, center, and James Harden, right, watch from the bench in the fourth quarter of Game 1 against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Oklahoma City, Sunday, April 21. Oklahoma City won 120-91. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
On his personal best thus far, the six-foot-nine forward who has been affectionately nicknamed “Chandler Bing” (after the character played by actor Matthew Perry on the long-running hit sitcom “Friends”) said: “I want to be an efficient player. I don’t want to be someone who slows down our offense or the guy that takes bad shots and forces the issue. I like to take what the defense gives me and do whatever is best for my team to win and I think me being efficient and taking good shots and being more of a playmaker than a guy who’s going to go out there and just try and score points really helps our team a lot more. I think that my percentage rise is a product of the shots that I’m taking and how I’m able to hit open shots.”
"I think my success has a lot to do with our team’s just because of the attention that James (Harden) is going to draw, especially against the Thunder. We’re going to need somebody to step up and have a good series and especially somebody to guard Kevin Durant so I think my role in the playoffs will be huge just containing Durant and also being aggressive on the offensive end and make him work and play defense and tire him out when he has to play offense. I just credit this summer working out extremely hard trying to develop all sorts of my game offensively and defensively to just be the best possible player I can be.
As a testament to his uncanny season, Parsons hit a game-tying 3-ball to send the match into overtime against the Los Angeles Lakers. Although the Rockets fell in the extension, his team was through to the NBA’s second season.
“That was pretty unbelievable,” he recalled of his shot. “It was a huge game for us just trying to get the highest possible playoff seeding on arguably the biggest stage in the NBA at Staples Center against the Lakers. That was pretty unbelievable and I didn’t really have time to think about whether it felt good or not I just wanted to make sure I got it off in time before the clock ran out. It was kind of a broken play and I’m just glad Jeremy (Lin) got it back to me in time for me to make it.”
“Yeah, it was definitely disappointing (to not finish seventh in the Western Conference) and I don’t think it was necessarily because of the seeding we got. I think it was just in the regular season with the loss in L.A. then a bad loss before in Phoenix and obviously the team wants the highest possible seed and we think we’re a lot better than the eighth seed but with how close the Western Conference playoff chase was there’s really no difference from six to eight. We are what we are and we’re okay with eight and we’re excited to play the Thunder.”
Added Chandler on the current Rockets team making the playoffs in only their first season together: “It’s a huge honor just because the Rockets haven’t made the playoffs in three or four years. For us to be the youngest team in the NBA, it shows a lot about how good of a year we’ve had and the potential we have and I think that we’re really just starting to scratch the surface. We’ve only just been together for a few months. I think making the playoffs this early on in our career just now getting together is a huge statement that we have a chance to be really good together.”
The second year player out of the University of Florida knows that his side is up against the tough Oklahoma City Thunder who topped the Western Conference but his like’s the Rocket’s dark horse tag: “Obviously being the eighth seed playing the number one seed not a lot of people are going to give us a chance to win that series let alone a championship but I think we’re young, I think we’re focused, and I think we have the best offense in the NBA. As long as we put our focus on the defensive end and rebound I think we have as good a chance as anybody.”
With the Rockets coming to Manila in October to play the Indiana Pacers in a pre-season game, Chandler was bubbly about the trip: “I’ve heard that Filipinos are really passionate about basketball and I can’t wait to feel this energy when I get there with the team this October. The team will be ready to put on a great show and I look forward to visiting Manila.”
But first, there’s Oklahoma. No matter where this season ends, it has been sensational, thrilling, and most of all, unbelievable.