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Sunday basketball notes

Robert Parish appreciates his accomplishments, as well as the abilities of today’s NBA big men

Robert Parish waves to the Boston Garden crowd during one of his last games for the Celtics in 1994. He still had three more seasons and another championship left in him after that.JON CHASE

Everything is good for Robert Parish. At 68, the only physical issue he experiences is a balky back from 1,611 games over his 21-year, Hall of Fame career.

“The Chief” maintains strong opinions about today’s NBA, his time with the Celtics, whether Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown can lead the Celtics to title No. 18, and what would encourage him to come back to the Celtics family.

Parish helped the Celtics win three championships and was part of the immortal “Big Three” along with Larry Bird and Kevin McHale. His No. 00 is retired and he is considered one of the greatest big men in Celtics history. But what stood out about Parish was his longevity. He played until he was 43, winning one more title with the 1996-97 Bulls.


“I’m very lucky to not sustain a major injury,” he said. “I always say if you get seriously injured, that’s like a deterrent in terms of longevity. That’s one of the reasons for my longevity, and genetics played a part. I was blessed with a good, healthy body. As I got older, there was still interest, and that plays a part also.”

Parish was also part of one of the most lopsided trades in NBA history, when the Warriors sent him and a first-round pick that became McHale to the Celtics for two 1980 first-round picks, the centerpiece being Joe Barry Carroll. Carroll was a draft bust, while McHale and Parish formed the best frontline in league history.

“I went from a little disappointed [after the trade] and then I went to, ‘Hell yeah,’ “ Parish said. “And then I looked at where I was going because of the perception of Boston. I didn’t know if it was a good thing or bad thing just yet. But I got to know the city and was comfortable with the city. The perception of Boston is far worse than the reality.”


Because of YouTube, NBA TV, and even video games, the accomplishments of the Celtics of the 1980s are appreciated and even revered today. That isn’t lost on Parish, who said he has just one regret about those times.

“I really didn’t appreciate what we accomplished and what we were going through and how good we were and the perception of us until my career was over,” he said. “And the reason why I kept that mind-set, I always felt like when you start looking at the things you accomplish and listen to the outside noise, I always felt like that was the breeding ground for complacency.

“Looking back on my career, I wish I had taken more time to enjoy the journey and the experience of what we were going through and what we were doing. And looking back on it, we were some bad [expletives]. Us and the Lakers were tearing it up. The championship had to go through either the Lakers or the Celtics.”

Robert Parish can enjoy the talents of Joel Embiid (left) and Nikola Jokic, the NBA's best modern big men.David Zalubowski/Associated Press

Parish is not one of those legends who cringes when he watches today’s game. He said he appreciates the versatility of players such as Denver’s Nikola Jokic and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid, who have added perimeter shooting to their refined post games.

“The reason I don’t criticize today’s bigs for being outside shooting 3-pointers and long twos is because they are still doing big-man things. That big fella out there in Denver, Jokic, is tearing it up,” Parish said. “That’s what I like about them.”


As for the current Celtics, Parish said Brown and Tatum don’t make their teammates better. He wants the club to acquire more offensive firepower.

“They need help, that’s what they need,” he said. “First of all, they have two explosive scorers. But the negative about their wing players is they don’t make their teammates better. They get theirs, but what are they doing for the team? Their teammates are just watching them do their thing. That’s one thing that is hurting the Celtics right now. If Tatum or Brown are off for any reason, the Celtics don’t have a chance. They have to be great every night to be in any game for a chance to win.

“Defensively they’re a small team; they don’t have a defensive presence. They get killed rebounding-wise because they’re just too little. They need a defensive presence and somebody who is not really concerned about scoring. Like a Dennis Rodman type, who didn’t care about scoring, just focus on the defensive part of the court. And they need more scoring; they have only two consistent scorers.”

Parish hasn’t been around TD Garden in recent years. He said he attended Paul Pierce’s number retirement ceremony in February 2018 but has passed on previous reunions and former player gatherings. He said he has no issues with the organization.

“Just a phone call,” he said when asked what it would take for a Boston return. “Since we’re on the topic of getting me back to Boston, I want the Bostonians to know, nothing but love.”


Parish has been annoyed that he’s been passed up for potential coaching and front office opportunities, but he is participating in an NBA event at All-Star Weekend in Cleveland and is open to being more involved.

“I did want to be part of the NBA community again, coaching or some front office work or commentating, but no opportunities,” he said. “So I say whatever now. I’m pretty much at that age where they push you out the door as opposed to hiring. Whoever is signing the check, I’m all-in.”


Short time with Celtics shaped Billups’s career

Chauncey Billups played only 51 games for the Celtics before a first-season trade, long before he became an NBA Finals MVP.SCOTT AUDETTE

Chauncey Billups returned to Boston on Friday for the first time as an NBA head coach. The Trail Blazers hired Billups, a former five-time All-Star and Detroit Pistons great, to replace Terry Stotts.

It’s been a rough season for Portland, with injuries and COVID protocols, as well as star point guard Damian Lillard’s long-term status with the organization a pressing issue.

Billups points to his early NBA years, when he was drafted third overall by the Celtics in 1997 and then traded after 51 games to the Raptors. Billups bounced around the NBA before finding a home in Detroit, where he was the Finals MVP in 2004.

“This was a really important time in my life, getting drafted here,” he said. “And now coaching — and I never thought I’d be coaching any way, so it’s kind of crazy. Every day is like a new learning experience for me, but that would have been if it was going great or not.


“I liken it to my rookie year. I come in . . . and get traded as the third pick in the draft. That never happens to anybody. I never heard of that. I went through so much during that time and it just prepared me for my career. Nothing you threw at me, I was never surprised, it never took me back. I was ready and it was because of those early years I came into the league.”

Billups is now dealing with players who are more than half his age [45] and barely remember his playing career. But he experienced a lot as a player.

“Most of them only heard about me winning and being the Finals MVP, but they don’t really understand the times before that,” he said. “Those times before that is what really allow me to pour into every person on our bench because I’ve been them all. I’ve been every guy, starting, coming off the bench, not good enough to play in the rotation. I’ve been every dude. I can share those things. I think it’s impactful.”


Lakers’ season is in shambles

This season has not gone to plan for LeBron James and the Lakers.Mike Ehrmann/Getty

There was scrutiny when the Lakers decided to add a slew of aging veterans to join LeBron James and Anthony Davis for one final championship run. Russell Westbrook (trade), Trevor Ariza, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Kent Bazemore, Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley, and Wayne Ellington joined the club, with the hopes that experience would blend with talent to form a juggernaut.

But the season has been a disaster. Davis, as has been his pattern, is out with an injury. Westbrook has been erratic, which is a sign of him pressing or a decline. Ariza has been injured for most of the season and already 36. Bazemore has been banished from the rotation. Rondo has been traded. Howard doesn’t play much, and the Lakers are getting pummeled by elite opponents and losing to average ones.

That has put coach Frank Vogel’s job in jeopardy, as he has been received most of the blame. The Lakers are 27th in the NBA in points allowed, and they often take possessions off defensively.

At 37, James is the team’s unquestioned leader, and he is taking on the same responsibility he did in Cleveland and Miami. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. How much longer can the Lakers ride James, or hope Davis can stay healthy, or Westbrook can return to the triple-double form of his days with the Thunder?

Vogel’s hot seat was turned up after an inexplicable home loss Wednesday to the shorthanded Pacers.

“Very frustrating, but it’s a long season and we believe in our group, but this is definitely a disappointing loss,” Vogel said. “Indy is a team that’s sub.-500, on our home court. We feel like we should win and you’ve got to win the games you feel like you should win.”

Most noteworthy during the loss to the Pacers was Vogel benching Westbrook in the last four minutes after he was torched by Caris LeVert. Westbrook, 33, is always on the floor in crunch time, but his turnover struggles and putrid shooting have made him a liability.

“Playing the guys I thought were going to win the game,” Vogel said. “You commit to hitting people and winning the rebounding battle. We’re not committed to hitting people. Every loss feels the same to me. You put your heart and soul into it. It’s all of us. We’ve got to coach better. They’ve got to play better. Everything has to be better. We’ve got to execute, better effort.”

Once a superstar, Russell Westbrook has often been a liability since landing in Los Angeles.David Zalubowski/Associated Press

Anthony, 37, is averaging 13.2 points and shooting 38.1 percent from the 3-point line. He’s been one of the few acquisitions to live up to expectations, and he offered support for Vogel.

“It’s up to us, Frank ain’t out there,” Anthony said. “It’s a matter of sticking through this and playing through this and winning some games.”

Anthony was a perennial All-Star for the Knicks, but once he got traded to the Thunder in 2017, his career and reputation began to change. He refused to come off the bench, and then after signing with the Rockets as a free agent in 2018, he was released after just 10 games.

The next season, Anthony signed with the Blazers and accepted a bench role. It was a blow to his ego, but he has flourished since.

“It’s an adjustment. I think I know what [Westbrook is] going through,” Anthony said. “I don’t think it was anything personal from Coach. It’s just something he’s not used to. You would think somebody like that would be on the court, but with the flow of the game, sometimes I haven’t been in the game or other guys haven’t been in the game.

“It’s something we’ve got to help him figure out. It’s frustrating, I can tell you that. As a player who’s trying to do things right, this is new for him. This is a new situation, a new environment. We’ve got to help him do it. That’s the only thing we can do, make sure his mental is right. That’s the only thing I care about. I don’t care about the basketball stuff when it comes to Russ. All I care about is making sure his mental is right.”

General manager Rob Pelinka consulted with James when building the roster. The question is whether blaming Vogel is fair. The players appear to believe they can win with him, but as the losses mount, it seems unlikely he’ll keep his job.

“Frank comes in upbeat every day,” Anthony said. “He gets on us when he needs to. He does a good job of showing us and putting us in a position to see what we’re doing wrong. I think the easiest thing to do is to blame him. We’re the ones that have to go out there and do it.

“I don’t think there’s a lack of confidence on this team. Our mind-set, our goal is still the same. It’s part of the journey. I don’t think anybody expected we’d be going through this. There’s a lot of things we weren’t expecting, as well.”

James said Wednesday he wasn’t addressing any negative issues regarding the team.

“Coaching staff has been great,” James said. “They put us in position to succeed, and it’s up to us to go out and handle the business. There’s always things we can do better. I’m not in the business of pointing fingers or pointing blame. If it’s not positive for me, then I’m cool. It’s not my lane. I’m not a negative person. I hate losing, so of course there’s a level of frustration, for sure. I feel like we have a good enough team to win ballgames and be over .500. Our record is who we are. We’ve got a road trip coming up and we will be tested by a lot of great teams. We’ll see what we’re made of.”

The Lakers began a six-game trip Friday, a stretch that could determine Vogel’s fate.


Zion Williamson, rehabbing away from the team, has left the Pelicans in quite the bind.Alex Goodlett/Associated Press

Former No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson continues to rehabilitate after foot surgery away from the Pelicans, working out with personal trainers in Portland, Ore. What seemed to be a no-brainer when he was drafted in 2019 is now a question: Will the Pelicans offer Williamson a five-year maximum extension? Williamson has played just 85 career games but is about to complete his third season and is eligible for that $195 million contract this summer, as is Ja Morant, who most certainly will be the first Grizzlies player to sign a max deal. There is a feeling that Williamson is not on the same page as the organization, and there is a question whether he will even play this season. The Pelicans are improving in the Western Conference but are unlikely to make a run to the playoffs . . . The NBA has decided to extend hardship 10-day contracts until Feb. 23, meaning teams will have another month to add free agents after losing players to COVID protocols. The number of players returning to the league on these contracts has decreased as the impact of the Omicron variant has subsided, but there are capable players waiting for another opportunity. The Pacers found another talented piece in Lance Stephenson, while the Lakers are expected to keep former lottery pick Stanley Johnson for the remainder of the season . . . The Celtics’ trade for Bol Bol and P.J. Dozier may be viewed as a salary dump — Juancho Hernangomez’s $7 million — but both players could be Celtics next season. Dozier, who played with Boston’s G-League affiliate before flourishing with the Nuggets, was an emerging swingman who is recovering from a torn ACL. Bol underwent foot surgery and has an intriguing skill set that the Celtics could attempt to develop. It’s an attempt for president of basketball operations Brad Stevens to add depth long term. The Celtics have had a lack of talented prospect for years . . . Roxbury native Wayne Selden, who made the Knicks out of training camp before being waived, has signed with Afyon in Turkey. Selden has also spent time with the Grizzlies, Pelicans, and Bulls after his time at the University of Kansas. Selden played high school at Tilton Academy in New Hampshire.

Gary Washburn is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at gary.washburn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GwashburnGlobe.