Longest-Tenured Houston Rocket, Chandler Parsons, Is Also Likely Most Important

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJanuary 26, 2014

HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 24:  Chandler Parsons #25 of the Houston Rockets celebrates a three-pointer against the Memphis Grizzlies during the game at the Toyota Center on January 24, 2014 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Surrounded by two of the league's most recognizable superstars, Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons isn't often afforded headline coverage.

Apparently, having the single-biggest input in Houston realizing its championship potential isn't enough to bump his big-name teammates out of the spotlight.

Dwight Howard's been a front-page player since the Orlando Magic grabbed him with the first pick of the 2004 draft. James Harden saw his stock soar after getting out from under the shadows of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant last season. Harden's popularity—and trademark beard—haven't stopped growing since.

As for Parsons, he's usually left scrounging for whatever media scraps remain after Houston's dynamic duo gets its press time. Unless, of course, he puts on a never-before-seen shooting performance like he did in Friday's 88-87 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies that demands broadcasters, bloggers and historians take note:

There's being in the zone, and then there's being in this uber-exclusive realm that even some elite shooters never find.

"I was pretty much unconscious," Parsons said after connecting on 10 consecutive second-half triples, per Kristie Rieken of the Associated Press (via NBA.com). "My body went numb. I've never felt that feeling on a basketball court before."

Few players do.

But sometimes, things happen that are just hard to explain. The rim swells, the rock shrinks and it's like pitching seashells into the ocean—at least, that's how it looks to the rest of us.

Yet, Parsons only allowed himself so much time to gloat about his marksmanship. After all, his potent perimeter play didn't bring his franchise a victory.

"It's frustrating," he said, via Rieken. "At the end of the day, you want to win the game no matter how good or bad you play."

He savored his moment in the spotlight, because they don't come around as often as they should. But one brilliant half won't change his approach—not when there's a relevance to restore for his team.

Dec 26, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets small forward Chandler Parsons (25) brings the ball up the court during the first quarter against the Memphis Grizzlies at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

He's not the likeliest of franchise leaders by any stretch.

Parsons spent four seasons at the University of Florida, a red flag for the potential-crazed basketball world. The 23-year-old was taken with the 38th pick of the 2011 draft, just after "who?" and right before "seriously, who?" (Trey Thompkins and Jeremy Tyler, by the way, but I think that proves the point.)

This is only his third NBA season, but that makes him an elder statesmen thanks to general manager Daryl Morey's busy hands. Reserve big man Greg Smith, originally a D-League signing by Houston, is the only other remaining player who suited up for the Rockets' 2011-12 outfit.

If Morey's the architect in Houston's superstar renovation, then Parsons is the contractor carrying out the job.

He's the central piece to this championship puzzle, thanks in no small part to the fact he's barely a blip on the financial books. The combination of a forward-thinking executive and a second-rounder seeking security not typically enjoyed by players of similar status left Parsons agreeing to a four-year, $3.7 million contract to start his career.

It took him approximately 30 seconds to prove he'd short-changed himself. You can study his stat sheet from any angle, but you'll never find a believable correlation between those numbers and the ones on his paycheck, via ShamSports.com.

Literally Balling on a Budget

He's also a steady free-throw stroke away from 50-40-90 status. As it is, he's one of only four players shooting at least 50 percent from the field (50.8) and 40 percent from deep (40.8) with at least three long-range attempts per game (4.8).

Exclusivity is nothing new for him. He's also one of four players—along with Durant, LeBron James and Blake Griffin—averaging at least 17 points, five rebounds and three assists and shooting at least 50 percent from the field. Those other three players will pull in more than $53 million between them for this season; Parsons won't even clear $1 million.

Yet, you never hear him gripe about his financial situation. Even though, it might be allowed in this situation. His salary seeming rich by most standards doesn't change the fact he's being paid grossly below market value.

He's not bitter at all, though. In fact, he's grateful for what he gets, he told Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:

It (the contract) doesn’t bother me. I chose my contract. Although I was confident in myself after my college career, I was still drafted in the second round. Rather than a one-year deal, I picked a four-year deal. It’s a little frustrating seeing all these guys, but what I’m making right now is still a lot of money to me.

Complaining just isn't his style. That just doesn't jive with his me-last personality.

He's the type of player every team needs, and that has nothing to do with his explosive production or clearance contract. He's simply a winner, a guy in constant pursuit of collective success at the sacrifice of self:

He brings a lunch pail to the hardwood, rolling up his sleeves and making all the little plays that can change the outcome of a game.

Whatever the Rockets need, Parsons will do it. He can launch from distance, attack the basket, create for others, move without the basketball or simply crash the glass when his number isn't called. He'll welcome the toughest assignment at the opposite end, and while he won't always pass the test, it's never for a lack of trying.

As assistant coach J.B. Bickerstaff told Feigen (subscription required), Parsons' first priority is making life simpler for his teammates:

He makes their jobs easier. He is able to handle the ball, so that takes a lot of pressure off James (Harden). He runs, and he cuts, so now we throw the ball to the post, and people are wary of him. They stay home, and Dwight (Howard) can go to work on the block. He doesn't have the same responsibilities as those guys, but he's as important, if not even more important.

He's a jack of all trades and a master of several. His game is constantly evolving, and there's yet to be a challenge he's declined.

Whether that means blazing the recruiting trail to bring Howard to Houston or forfeiting marquee recognition for the betterment of the team, the blue-collar worker with white-collar talent simply does whatever is needed.

If that costs him cash, (it won't for much longer) or celebrity status, so be it. He has bigger plans in mind.

He doesn't need front-page placement to understand his worth. He'll know his work is done when he's leading a championship parade through the heart of his city.

Unless otherwise noted, statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.


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