Besides Larry Bird, president of the Pacers for the past 13 years, the most notable absence from the reunion of the 1986 Celtics’ title team was Robert Parish, a Hall of Famer and one of the original Big Three.
Parish, 62, lives in North Carolina and has kept a low profile since his retirement after the 1997 season. “The Chief” has never been one to camouflage his opinions or thoughts. And he had some interesting, funny, and rather poignant answers when he talked recently with the Globe.
Parish said he has no issues with the Celtics organization but did reject the team’s offer to appear at the reunion. Kevin McHale, Bill Walton, Jerry Sichting, Sam Vincent, Danny Ainge, and Greg Kite were among the attendees.
“I just didn’t want to travel. It didn’t motivate me to attend,” said Parish, who averaged 16.1 points and 9.5 rebounds on that ’86 title team. “I don’t want to downplay the significance of what we accomplished as a team. That’s not what I’m trying to imply. The answer I gave you implies that I didn’t think it was important enough to show up, that’s not what I’m trying to convey. I’m just saying that that time has passed for me. I don’t dwell on the past and I’ve been honored and appreciated and I still get love for not only what myself but my teammates accomplished. I just didn’t feel like [the reunion] was that big of a deal, that’s all.”
When asked if he feels appreciated when he visits Boston, Parish was unwavering in his response.
“I always get love in Boston and I will never forget Boston,” said Parish, who played 14 of his 21 NBA seasons with the Celtics. “Boston has some of the best fans in any sport. They are very knowledgeable. They understand me. I was loved, embraced, and supported; what more can you ask for as an athlete?”
Parish wanted to expound on why he passed on the reunion. And his response was one of humility.
“I have never been one to seek or want attention or admiration or a pat on the back for what I’ve done,” he said. “I did my job. I got paid for doing my job. That was enough for me. That’s one of the reasons I was able to accept a lesser role on those teams in the ’80s. I didn’t have a huge ego.”
Parish said Dennis Johnson and Ainge wanted expanded roles with the Celtics as the ’80s progressed and Parish volunteered to take a reduced offensive role.
“I did that because my ego wasn’t as big as Kevin’s and Larry’s,” Parish said. “I’ve never been a person that was concerned about accolades or the media embracing me. I was all about winning and losing, and we did more winning than losing. It was a successful formula with me accepting a lesser role. I always wondered, what if I said there is no way I’m accepting a lesser role, what would that have done to our team chemistry?
“Would Kevin, Larry, and myself been Hall of Famers because we would not have been as successful [without expanded roles for Ainge and Johnson]?”
When the Celtics acquired Bill Walton from the Clippers for Cedric Maxwell in September 1985, Walton said one of the first Boston stops he made was to Parish’s home. Walton wanted to know if Parish approved of the move.
“It wasn’t important to me because I had no say in the personnel decisions, but what I was impressed with was Bill Walton’s character,” Parish said. “He thought enough of me to make sure I was comfortable with him being on the team. That’s why I have the utmost respect for Bill Walton and that’s the main reason why he was my inductee into the Hall of Fame. Bill Walton is my main man, for that reason.”
Parish has desired to work in the NBA but said he hasn’t received many opportunities. He has kept a lower profile in the past several years. What’s more, he said the last time he, Bird, and McHale were together was at the 1997 NBA All-Star Game in Cleveland, when the league named its 50 all-time players.
The Big Three are a Boston original, but Parish said their closeness was on the court.
“Listen, there is no animosity and regret between the three of us,” Parish said. “Because you probably heard me say that Larry, Kevin, and I are not friends. We’re not. But there’s respect and admiration between us. And I say we are not friends because we didn’t hang out and go to dinner. We didn’t do that. But we are respectful and courteous towards each other, and what more can I ask for? And besides, I’m not an easy guy to get to know, anyway.
“I’d be the first to say that I’m a distant individual. I have a tendency to come across as being aloof and dismissive. I think the best way to describe me is that I’m a loner. I prefer to be by myself.”
Parish, amazingly, was a member of the ’97 Bulls team that won Michael Jordan’s fifth NBA title. The Chief was 43 years old, adding one final accolade to his impressive résumé.
As NBA history progresses, Parish becomes increasingly overshadowed, especially outside of Boston. He has no issue with anonymity.
“Whether [critics] do or don’t [think so], I think I’m one of the best centers to play this game,” Parish said. “That’s most important. I’d rather be underrated than overrated. If I am underrated, I’m all for that.”
Selfless play has carried Cavaliers
Tyronn Lue took over as Cavaliers coach midseason and has directed Cleveland to the NBA Finals. The 39-year-old former Celtics assistant has had to manage personalities such as LeBron James and Kyrie Irving and keep former All-Star Kevin Love motivated and producing amid periods of self-doubt.
Lue said the key to Cleveland’s improved play — beginning the playoffs with 10 straight wins — has been James’s selfless attitude.
“LeBron’s a winner and he understands what it takes to win. And right now, just his [job] and pressing his teammates has really went a long way,” Lue said. “These guys are playing at a high level and Kevin and Kyrie, along with our other guys, are really playing well. LeBron understands to win a championship you need everyone and that’s how he’s playing this postseason.”
If you recall, James posted cryptic tweets and appeared angry at his teammates for their lack of consistency and execution after a 30-11 start cost David Blatt his job.
“I just think with LeBron, he understands we’re going to win at a high level, we need everyone,” Lue said. “We’d love LeBron to come out and dominate a game and every facet of the game, but he understands if he keeps the guys with the confidence and our whole team is playing with confidence, that makes it easier for him. It make things a lot better.
“With Kyrie being out at the start of the season, LeBron had to carry a heavier load. Him and Kevin did a great job of holding the ship down until Kyrie gets back.”
Love’s tenure in Cleveland has been uneven. He scored just 13 total points in Games 3 and 4 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Raptors, stunning for a three-time All-Star who averaged 26.1 points per game in his final season in Minnesota.
Love responded with an impressive 25-point performance in Game 5.
“Everyone knows Kevin can play this game at a high level,” Lue said. “He continued to work hard every day. Sometimes I say he works too hard, but he’s constantly in the weight room, constantly doing some conditioning, constantly working on his post game and shooting. He continues to work and he works. When he misses a couple of shots, it doesn’t bother me. He puts the work in.”
76ers have big decision ahead
The 76ers seem focused on two options for the first overall pick in next month’s draft: Brandon Ingram of Duke or Ben Simmons of LSU. And the decision could determine the course of the franchise. Philadelphia is in desperate need of a point guard and Simmons could be their best facilitator since Allen Iverson. Ingram has been compared with Kevin Durant because of his skill set and could emerge as the pure scorer who would uplift the 76ers.
The decision will be difficult.
“We may decide before, but we’re certainly not going to announce it,” president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo said. “Again, there is a lot of work that needs to be done. And I will tell you, we are going to continue to do our due diligence for the draft. We’re going to visit all the players. They are going to visit us. There are some draft workouts to be held. Don’t forget, we’ve got [picks No.] 24 and 26 in this draft as well. A lot of things could be in play.
“We need to determine what the best course of action is. But the good news is, you’ve got resources in place. You’ve got the tools now clearly defined — 1, 24, and 26. We’ve got those good young, developing players that continue to develop even as we speak today in our gym in Philadelphia.”
The 76ers selected Jahlil Okafor third overall last year but it became apparent during the season that the former Duke big man was not effective in an up-tempo offense, and he could be traded. The 76ers also have to make room for Joel Embiid, who has missed two seasons because of foot surgeries.
The 76ers need backcourt help and a talented small forward, so it appears they are keeping the top selection.
“A lot of people jumped on the notion that we talked about looking at all alternatives as open to moving the pick. I think, again, you have to look at every single option and everything in front of you,” Colangelo said. “But the bottom line is, now that we’re sitting in the No. 1 position, it changes the dynamic. It’s highly unlikely that anything is done with the No. 1 pick except selecting the player.”
“[Simmons] is a ball-handling four, who actually would be in a position to initiate the offense. Very versatile. Plays multiple positions. As you look at a Brandon Ingram, more of a shooter, a silky smooth small-forward type. I think you have to look at his versatility. But the one thing that stands out is his ability to shoot the basketball, above all else. There is obviously two very interesting candidates there.”
Prospect Brown wants to find fit
Jaylen Brown brings an NBA body, a polished personality, and high aspirations to the draft as he seeks to convince teams he’s worthy of a high pick.
The former Cal swingman is a freight train when driving to the basket, a small forward with force and fury, but his issues in college were well chronicled. Brown, a potential Celtics draft target, couldn’t avoid picking up charges because of his physicality and overaggression, and he lacked a consistent jump shot.
Brown, the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, shot 29.4 percent from the 3-point line and also struggled from midrange despite averaging 14.6 points and 5.4 rebounds in 34 games. But if the 6-foot-7-inch, 223-pound Atlanta native harnesses his offensive game and uses his athleticism on defense, Brown could potentially be the best player in the draft.
“Absolutely, without a doubt,” was his response when asked if his game was better suited for the NBA. “I feel like in the NBA it’s more open court, it’s more transition. You don’t get penalized for being physical.
“The college game is different. But it taught me to play without the basketball; it taught me how to guard certain teams. It matured me in a lot of ways.”
Brown has sought mentorship from Tracy McGrady and Isaiah Thomas and decided to follow the workout regimen of Kobe Bryant.
“I try to approach the game the same way [as Bryant],” he said. “I admire his work ethic. They say Kobe Bryant, he wakes up at 5:30 every morning, so I’m trying to do the same thing, trying to catch up to him. If that’s what it takes to be where he is, I’m going to try to do that, too.”
While Brown is expected to be a top-10 pick, there is a belief that he could have ascended to the top three in next year’s draft if he had decided to stay at Cal and sharpen his game.
“I definitely considered staying but I thought it would be ridiculous to turn down an opportunity like this,” he said. “I can’t wait to get to the NBA and just lock guys up [defensively]. That’s what I want to do and that’s my calling. I think I’m a good defensive player. I think I have a long way to go and I have a lot to learn, but that’s what I want to do. That’s what I want to hang my hat on.”
Regarding his interview with the Celtics at the NBA Combine, Brown said, “One of the things they said is I’ll love it there in Boston. It’s the type of area, the type of culture they have there. They said it fits me to a T. Things like that mean a lot to me. Just talking to me and getting a feel for me goes a long way.
“Coach [Brad] Stevens is great. He talked about how I would fit. Coach Stevens had a lot of positive things to say. He had a lot of positive things to say about Boston, the traditions of Boston. I know they want to win right away and [they] feel like they can do that.”
The expected hiring of Mike D’Antoni in Houston has to serve as discouraging news for coaches such as Stephen Silas, son of ex-Celtic Paul Silas, who are looking for their first NBA head job. D’Antoni has coached four teams — Nuggets, Suns, Knicks, Lakers — and has yet to reach the NBA Finals; he also hasn’t won a playoff game since 2008. He was an abject failure in his past two head jobs, with New York and Los Angeles, and appeared to be out of coaching opportunities before suddenly landing one of the prime openings. There was encouraging news last week when Memphis hired Miami assistant David Fizdale for his first head job, but coaches such as Silas, Patrick Ewing, Nate Tibbetts, and Jarron Collins will have to keep waiting. The NBA coaching profession is unpredictable — D’Antoni, Nate McMillan, Tom Thibodeau, Jeff Hornacek, and Scott Brooks have landed jobs — but room must be made for newcomers. Brooklyn (Kenny Atkinson), Memphis (Fizdale), and the Lakers (Luke Walton) made astute hires, but retread coaches still find their way back to the bench . . . Although he promised to shoot 5,000 jumpers per day if the Celtics drafted him third overall, Wisconsin forward Nigel Hayes decided to return to school for his senior season. A potential first-round pick after leading the Badgers to the national championship game as a sophomore, Hayes endured an inconsistent junior season and then tested the draft waters. This was the first year of the revised rule that allowed draft prospects to return to school if they did not hire an agent. Several players made sound decisions to go back to school, including rugged Purdue big man Caleb Swanigan. ... Why was Bismack Biyombo available to the Raptors last summer? The rebounding and defensive machine was not tendered a qualifying offer by the Hornets. The club ran out of patience with Biyombo, who was considered a major offensive liability with poor hands. It’s a prime example of the risk teams take by giving up on players prematurely. Biyombo could demand as much as $17 million in the free agent market this summer after he chooses to opt out of the final year of his contract that pays him $2.94 million.
Gary Washburn can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GwashburnGlobe. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.