Robert Parish Rumors

All NBA Players

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On Wednesday night, Garnett will start his 20th season by playing against his former team, the Boston Celtics. Garnett doesn’t believe he is about to play in his 20th season opener, even if he did tell Kevin McHale as a rookie that he hoped to match his age when he came into the league as an 18-year-old with the number of NBA seasons he’d play. “I definitely can’t,” said Garnett, who joins Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Robert Parish and Kevin Willis as players to play 20 seasons. “I have always enjoyed the game of basketball, probably always will. You don’t have to motivate me, to push me out of bed to do this.”
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Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili played in their 469th regular-season win for the Spurs on Monday, giving them the third-highest total for any trio of teammates in NBA history. The Spurs’ big three had been tied with Bill Russell, K.C. Jones and Sam Jones (468 for Boston). The two higher totals were by Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish for the Celtics (540); and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and Michael Cooper for the Lakers (490).
Now that he is removed from the shadow of Pierce and Garnett, Parish said, Rondo could thrive. That’s what happened to him, after all, when he went from the Warriors to the Celtics, for whom he made nine All-Star teams. “It turned out to be a good thing,” Parish said, laughing. “Things went real smooth, I had a fine time in Boston. A bad reputation doesn’t mean you can’t fix it. It can happen.”
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As for what the Celtics have left on the roster, it is expected that point guard Rajon Rondo, coming off knee surgery, will be the focal point of the team. Parish is something of a kindred spirit with Rondo. Before coming to Boston, he was with the Warriors, but Golden State sought to get rid of Parish because of attitude problems. He understands, then, that reputations can be distorted. “Just going by what I have heard, I have heard he has a talent for being difficult,” Parish said. “But you can say that about most of us. I know I had my moments. For me, if I don’t know you, I come across as being aloof and distant if I don’t know you. I am just quiet if I don’t know you. I can be very stoic looking, that’s just my facial expression. I don’t smile a lot. I come across as being arrogant and dismissive, even if that is not the case. I know what it is to be misunderstood. I can’t say for sure that’s the case with Rondo, but I can understand it if it is.”
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Robert Parish, “The Chief,” rarely talked to the media and never hung around with Celtics teammates after a game. Associates say he would not answer his phone, letting messages go to voicemail. After leaving the team in 1994, he let his connection to the Green fray and fade, even to the point of selling off his 1986 world championship ring for spending money. So it was a surprise when this resolute loner picked up the phone at his home in North Carolina on the third ring. “People shouldn’t feel sad; they should help me get a job,” said the Hall of Fame center with the deep voice on the other end. “I need a coaching job in the NBA. I’m restless and I need money. ”
Parish, who earned roughly $24 million in 21 years in the NBA, says he needs a job with a substantial six-to-seven-figure salary. “I don’t want to have to start over. I’m not homeless and I’m not penniless, but I need to work.” Parish, who lives in an immaculate, tastefully decorated tan stucco home on the edge of a golf course, says his money was drained away because he wasn’t working and he was “too generous” with family, friends, and significant others. “There’s no need in crying about that now. I’m not making no excuses ’cause I’m to blame. I enjoyed it. I don’t want to come across as Poor Robert.’’
Parish is pressed on his relationship with Ainge. He responds by reaching back in time, telling a story about how Celtics president Red Auerbach and coach K.C. Jones once asked him to take fewer shots because Dennis Johnson and Ainge wanted more scoring opportunities. The Chief readily agreed. “Danny is selfish, even after I made the sacrifice for him and DJ, he still asked to be traded.’’
Pressed for a further explanation, he answered, “I don’t know. I would not consider myself part of Larry’s inner circle, like he’s not in my inner circle. Same thing with Kevin. He’s not in my inner circle; I’m not in his inner circle. Same thing with Danny. You know we respect each other. We had the camaraderie, obviously, collectively, on the team because of our success on the court. But off the court, you know, we weren’t hanging out going to dinner, drinks, going to the movies, double dating, whatever you wanted to do. We weren’t doing any of that.”
McHale, for his part, expressed remorse in a voicemail. He said he tried to hire Parish when he was in Minnesota, but “I went back and checked . . . we were actually reducing spots at the time. Then I was let go from Minnesota.” He says he saw Parish later, when McHale worked for TNT. “I feel terrible about the whole thing, but I just didn’t have a position,’’ McHale said. “I would have loved to have hired Robert if something would’ve came up.”
Parish, 59, said that Bird and McHale, both of whom have held coaching and front office jobs in the league (McHale is the coach of the Houston Rockets), have done nothing to help him in his quest to return to the NBA, although he says he has reached out to them. He calls his Hall of Fame teammates “acquaintances.” “In my case, I don’t have any friends,’’ Parish said. “I saw Kevin at an event; he said he was going to call me. He never called. I called Larry twice when I was at the Indiana Pacers; he never returned my call. And not just Larry. Across the board, most NBA teams do not call back. You need a court order just to get a phone call back from these organizations. I’m not a part of their fraternity.”
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“They had all kinds of forwards out there,” McHale said. “I think it’s a sad state when you can’t (find) enough centers in our league anymore to fill up the roster. I don’t know if it’s a position-less game. If Moses Malone was playing right now and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Robert Parish, you’d have centers. I don’t know where they went. They went the way of the dinosaur, I think”.
In one of his first practices with the Bulls, Parish botched one of the plays and was amused to find Jordan jawing at him just inches from his face. “I told him, ‘I’m not as enamored with you as these other guys. I’ve got some rings too,’ ” Parish recalled. “At that point he told me, ‘I’m going to kick your ass.’ I took one step closer and said, ‘No, you really aren’t.’ After that he didn’t bother me.” Parish said he should have retired at least two years sooner than he did, a fact that was drilled home to him repeatedly in Bulls workouts. “By the end, Luc Longley and Bill Wennington were killing me in practice,” he said. “Clearly I stayed on too long.” Parish remains an avid fan of the NBA and is impressed with how the current Big Three have handled their final days. “Those three guys gave us a reason to be proud of the Celtics again,” Parish said. “I give Paul Pierce all the credit. He put his ego aside for the betterment of the team. That speaks volumes about him as a person.”
There, he regained an appreciation for Bird’s leadership style. “What set Larry apart from Magic and Jordan was he wasn’t an in-your-face leader like they were,” Parish said. “He had too much respect for us. If you weren’t having a good night, he was more inclined to encourage you, or not say anything at all. “But Magic and Jordan would jump all over you.”
Celtic lore tells us Boston fielded proposals that would have sent Bird to Indiana, McHale to Dallas and Parish to Seattle, but Auerbach refused to pull the trigger on any of them. “I will always be grateful for Red for not trading me,” McHale said. “It meant the world to me to play my entire career with the Celtics. I know people want to criticize him now but I loved the fact Red said, ‘Screw it, these are my guys.’ There was real honor to it, something you hardly ever see today.” Bird wonders aloud if some of the so-called deals fall under the category of revisionist history. He points out that as late as the 1990-91 season, the Celtics were 29-5 and legitimate contenders before his back went out and McHale sprained his ankle. “I think those trade rumors were BS,” Bird said. “Danny [Ainge] can sit there and say he talked to Red about trading us before we got too old, but all I know is I talked to Red all the time and he never — ever — told me, ‘I could trade you for Chuck Person’ or anyone else.”
In their final two seasons together, Bird and McHale grew increasingly distant, even mildly antagonistic. The pain and disappointment of their suddenly limited skills wore on both of them. “At that point Kevin was the healthier of the two, and he felt Larry should have deferred to him more,” Parish said. “That’s when the relationship really started to deteriorate.” “The injuries made us all ornery,” McHale said. “We were all experiencing the same thing and we were just miserable.” “When you are injured, you can’t move, you can’t do what you want, so you don’t want to talk to anybody,” Bird said. “You just want to be alone.” For McHale, the ultimate indignity was his inability to get a stop on the defensive end. “I’m matching up with players who are nothing special and they don’t even see me,” McHale said. “They are scoring over me like I’m not even there. “After one particularly rough night, I remember I went home and cried. I cried over the loss of that part of me that had been with me since I was 13 years old.”
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Parish was the most athletic and ultimately the healthiest of the Big Three. His teammates’ physical struggles left him heartsick. “It struck a chord with me,” said Parish. “They had two of the best work ethics I’ve ever seen, and their bodies just failed them. I hated it.” The problem was compounded by Bird’s demeanor, which habitually soured when he was hurting. “Larry could be a real pain in the backside when things weren’t going his way,” Parish said. “I have no problem with that [description],” Bird said. “My concern at the end was, ‘How’s my back going to be when I get out of here?’ I played two years in total agony.”
“One of the reasons why it worked out so well in Boston is Garnett and Allen were older players,’’ Parish said. “Those guys [in Miami] are under 30, and are they going to be able to put their egos aside trying to carve out their niche, their legacy? It looks good on paper, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be a success on the court. “I don’t see them coming out of the East because they don’t have a true point and true center, because [Zydrunas] Ilgauskas is not going to get it done against Shaq, Jermaine, and [Orlando’s] Dwight Howard.’’
O’Neal has said he’s ready to accept a complementary role, but Parish believes the future Hall of Famer possesses enough skill and presence to make a dramatic difference in Boston’s interior game. “I was happy about the acquisition of Mr. Shaquille O’Neal, it was a good move because the Celtics are trying to win it now,’’ Parish said last week. “Before the other veterans run out of gas, [Kevin] Garnett, [Paul] Pierce, and [Ray] Allen. So their mission is to try to win it now. I think between those two guys [Shaquille and Jermaine O’Neal] in the middle, the center position is secure.’’
“He’s lost a step, but any time you design a game plan with Shaq on the [opposing] team, it starts with Shaq in my opinion because he is still a load,’’ Parish said. “Shaq can still rebound and Shaq can play defense and that’s what the Celtics need most from him. Because the Celtics are going to surround Shaq with plenty of offense. He definitely can get it done defensively, but he can’t do it for a long period of time. “Like I said, for 20 minutes or on a good night, 30 minutes, he can still get it done.’’
“Shaq can still start for at least 15 teams, maybe 20 teams,’’ Parish said. “I would say that time has caught up with him but he can still be a factor and not to mention defensively. He’s long and has a lot of mass and is going to take up a lot of room and that definitely is where the Celtics’ strong suit is, defensively. I think that’s where he gets it done. I think Shaq will definitely bring a defensive presence along with Garnett. He’s going to cause a lot of havoc defensively and he still can get it done offensively.’’