It darn sure isn't what Chandler Parsons had in mind when he moved up Interstate 45 this summer, though.
Parsons is cashing the big paychecks, leaping from six-figure salaries the last few seasons with the Houston Rockets to a three-year, $46 million deal with the Dallas Mavericks. The increased role and responsibilities he excitedly embraced upon arriving in Dallas, however, haven't materialized midway through his first season with the Mavs.
The Mavs paid a premium rate to pry Parsons away from the Rockets in restricted free agency in large part because they considered the 26-year-old small forward to be an ascending player, pointing to his scoring, rebounding and assists averages rising in each of his three seasons in Houston.
Those numbers have dipped across the board in Dallas – 15.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists this season, down from 16.6, 5.5 and 4.0 a year ago – with Parsons playing fewer minutes and rarely serving as a focal point in the Mavs’ flow offense. Those facts will surely fuel plenty of “Overpaid!” taunts from Rockets fans as Parsons returns to the Toyota Center in a rival uniform for the second time Wednesday night.
“I’m still the same player, if not a better player,” Parsons told ESPNDallas.com. “I’m just accepting my role on this team. That’s what coach gave me.”
Added coach Rick Carlisle: “I like the way Parsons is playing. He’s improved his game since he’s gotten here in all areas. I think it’s another example of where stats can lie a little bit.”
A deeper look into Parsons’ production confirms that he hasn’t regressed since leaving the Rockets. His per-minute and per-possession scoring numbers have actually improved in Dallas. His rebounding is roughly the same.
The assist totals for Parsons, who is blessed with ballhandling skills and court vision that are rare in a 6-foot-9 package, have slipped significantly by any measure. That’s a result of his role as a member of the Mavs’ supporting cast with the vast majority of the play calls and offensive action designed to get the ball in the hands of shooting guard Monta Ellis and power forward Dirk Nowitzki.
For better or worse, Parsons spends most possessions spotting up on the weak side of the floor. He’s shooting more 3-pointers than ever but getting fewer overall shots and playmaking opportunities than last season.
It isn’t the role that Parsons envisioned when he left the Rockets after being the third wheel behind All-Stars James Harden and Dwight Howard. Yet Parsons doesn’t want to rock the boat with a team that is 30-16 and ranks second in the league in offensive efficiency, although the Mavs are mired in a season-long three-game losing streak.
“When you’ve got a guy like Monta who can score the ball, a lot of the offense goes through him and you’ve got one of the all-time great scorers in Dirk,” Parsons said. “They’re going to get their touches. I’m capable of playing off of those guys and still being able to get mine.
“I’m always ready for a challenge. As a competitor, you always want more. I think I can handle that. Ultimately, you want to be a good teammate. You want to come in, work hard, gain respect in the locker room from everybody. I think I’ve done a pretty good job of that, but it’s all about winning. We can talk about winning championships, winning conference championships, Finals. That’s how you get respect.
“I’m just trying to do anything I can to get us there. If that’s not being the No. 1 or 2 option, I’ve accepted that, but I’m going to stay aggressive.”
The question – which Parsons prefers to avoid discussing, deferring to Carlisle – is whether the Mavs would be better off if he had a bigger role.
The Mavs are 14-3 when Parsons scores at least 17 points. They are 9-1 when he attempts at least 15 shots. They are 6-1 when he has at least four assists.
According to Synergy Sports data, Parsons ranks in the 86th percentile of the NBA this season in per-possession scoring efficiency, a slight improvement from last season. He ranks in the 95th percentile as a pick-and-roll ballhandler and in the 89th percentile as a cutter, but he spends a lot of possessions just standing on the weak side and waiting, like a ridiculously rich version of Steve Novak.
“We’re going to continue to look for opportunities to get him more involved here and there,” said Carlisle, widely considered one of the league’s most innovative offensive minds. “But I don’t see it as a huge issue here. I just don’t.”
Part of the problem, if there is indeed one, is that Parsons has been too passive at times when he isn’t getting many touches. That was particularly true in Sunday’s loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, when the part-time model might as well have been a mannequin during a six-point, one-rebound, no-assist stinker.
Parsons responded when the Mavs momentarily made him an offensive priority the next game. He scored on designed plays on the first two possessions Tuesday night and finished the first quarter with 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting. Then he went back to being a role player, scoring nine points on 3-of-7 shooting the rest of the game as the Memphis Grizzlies routed the Mavs.
“Our offense is a free-flowing offense,” Nowitzki said. “There might be five, six minutes I’m running up and down and don’t get a shot. That’s how our offense works, that’s how we want to play, but sometimes when a guy is hot like that, maybe we’ve got to do a better job of finding him.”
It’s been difficult for Parsons to find a consistent comfort zone in Dallas.
Parsons struggled much of the first month of the season, when he fought through the worst shooting slump of his career while adjusting to a new system, surroundings and spotlight. He settled into a nice groove in late November, when he started a 10-game stretch in which he averaged 20.9 points and 2.9 assists while shooting 50.3 percent on 15.1 field goal attempts per game.
Then the blockbuster deal to acquire Rajon Rondo changed the dynamics of the Dallas offense and disrupted Parsons' rhythm. As Carlisle and the Mavs search for the best methods to use their unique new point guard, Parsons sacrifices touches.
In 19 games since Rondo's arrival, Parsons is averaging 13.8 points and 2.0 assists while shooting 47 percent on 11.3 field goal attempts per game. Not coincidentally, the Mavs’ offensive rating has slipped more than seven points per 100 possessions during that span.
It's no surprise that Ellis and Nowitzki continue to be the Mavs' top two scoring options, but it's eyebrow-raising to see Rondo average more field goal attempts than Parsons.
“It takes some time,” Parsons said of building a rapport with Rondo without the benefit of a training camp and preseason. “It’s not going to happen overnight. He’s a ball-dominant point guard, and he’s been doing it for a lot of years and he’s very good at it and he can really pass the ball. I’ve just got to play to his strengths and cut and move and stay in his vision and run the floor and get out in transition, things that I’m good at.
“I’ve just got to be doing a lot of stuff that’s without the ball, because Rondo is going to have the ball a lot, Monta’s going to have the ball a lot, Dirk’s going to have it in the post a lot. I’ve got to find ways to stay aggressive and to help our team offensively with the role I have.”
Overpaid? Parsons hears plenty of that, especially in Houston.
But perhaps underutilized should be part of the Parsons discussion at this point, too.
DALLAS -- So much for a statement road win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Martin Luther King Day being the start of something for the Dallas Mavericks.
A little more than a week later, it looks more like a fluke.
Dallas' season hit a low point on Tuesday night, when the Mavs were on the wrong end of a 109-90 rout by the Grizzlies to extend their losing streak to a season-worst three games. It was an embarrassing effort against a Memphis squad missing two key players (All-Star candidate point guard Mike Conley and defensive stopper Tony Allen) and playing the rear end of a back-to-back on the road.
Right now, Dallas seems like a team destined to again make a first-round departure in the Western Conference playoffs. It's hard to be any more optimistic about a team that is now 2-9 against fellow top-eight West teams, with one of those wins against a Pop-special San Antonio Spurs junior varsity squad.
That's why last week's victory over the Grizzlies felt so big at the time. But it clearly wasn't a breakthrough moment.
"We know we can play that style of basketball," Mavs center Tyson Chandler said, referring to quality ball movement and spacing offensively and being able to depend on each other defensively. "The thing is we've got to be more consistent with the style of basketball that we want to play."
Less than six weeks after the Rajon Rondo trade, it's still too early to make any definitive proclamations on his potential impact in Dallas. But the questions about whether the Mavs could play their preferred offensive style with a poor-shooting point guard existed before they pulled the trigger on the blockbuster trade with the Boston Celtics.
That doesn't mean the deal represented a poor risk for the Mavs. It was apparent they weren't a real contender with defensive liability Jameer Nelson as their starting point guard. Given the opportunity to get a four-time All-Star at the position without giving up any major assets, the Mavs had to go for it.
The results so far, however, can't be considered encouraging.
The Mavs are 11-8 since Rondo's arrival. Not bad, but a lot worse than their 19-8 record before his arrival. Their defensive rating has improved 2.3 points per 100 possessions with Rondo, but their offensive rating has dropped drastically, from a league-best 113.6 pre-Rondo to 106.3 since the deal.
This losing streak started when Rondo, whose crunch-time prowess was trumpeted by the Dallas decision-makers upon his arrival, was benched for the final 5:12 in a 102-98 loss against the Chicago Bulls. Rick Carlisle declined to discuss the logic of his coach's decision, but the only reasonable explanation is that he valued spacing and shooting over the tangibles and intangibles that Rondo can provide.
Two losses later, it's tough not to wonder whether Rondo is a long-term fit for the Mavs, especially if it takes a near-max contract to keep him.
"This isn't a Rondo thing," Carlisle said, trying to cut off that line of thinking. "This is a team thing. Right now, we've got to circle the wagons."
The Mavs certainly have plenty of messes to clean up that aren't directly related to Rondo. Their bench -- depleted in the Rondo deal -- has been outscored by double digits in each game of the losing streak. They get outrebounded on a regular basis despite Rondo representing a major upgrade in that department. And their problems in finishing defensive possessions is driving Carlisle crazy, as the coach rattled off the top of his head that the Mavs have allowed a ridiculous 142 points in the final eight seconds of possessions during this three-game skid.
"Those numbers are the highest I've ever heard or seen," Carlisle said.
And this is the lowest the Mavs, who have dropped from third to sixth in the West in a matter of days, have been all season.
"We've got to keep plugging, keep fighting, keep getting better on both ends of the floor," Nowitzki said. "I still think we have the talent. We just have to pull together and dig deep and dig out of this hole."
Marc Gasol added 15 points and a game-high six assists for the Grizzlies, who won their fourth straight and eighth in their past nine games a night after finishing a season-long five-game homestand. The only loss in that stretch was to Dallas last week at home.
Carlisle's much-discussed benching of Rondo -- he sat the final 5:31 in a loss to Chicago last week -- doesn't seem like such a big deal anymore, which is a good thing.
During the final 30 minutes of the Mavs' practice Monday afternoon, Carlisle worked one-on-one with Rondo while he worked on his free throw shooting, which definitely needs improvement since he's made only 5 of 19 this season and 34 of 110 (30.9 percent) the past three seasons.
Rondo would attempt a free throw and Carlisle would provide feedback. Sometimes, he'd offer a few words. Other times, Carlisle would take the ball and demonstrate the preferred release point.
When it was over, the duo spoke for a few minutes before heading their separate ways.
The Mavs acquired Rondo last month to help them win another title, which is this organization's only goal these days.
He's a four-time All-Star at one of the game's most important positions. He's a cerebral offensive player whose unique perspective of the game allows him to make passes others have a hard time even conceiving.
Countless times throughout his career, Dirk Nowitzki has arrived at his home after a game at the American Airlines Center, plopped down on the couch and scrolled through the television listings to find the Los Angeles Lakers game in time to watch Kobe Bryant perform in crunch time.
That won’t be possible again until next season. The Lakers announced Monday afternoon that, as expected, Bryant will undergo surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder.
“Disappointing,” Nowitzki said of the news that a serious injury will end Bryant’s season prematurely for the third consecutive campaign. “I think he worked extremely hard to get back to the point where he’s fun to watch again. After an Achilles tear, kind of everybody said they’re not sure if he’s going to come back, and he worked his butt off like he has his entire career and gets to a point where he scores again and is fun to watch. And now another injury happens.
“It’s tough, but he’s a fighter. He’ll probably be back from that as well.”
As Bryant’s body betrays him, it’s hard not to wonder about Nowitzki’s basketball mortality.
They are a couple of NBA legends, separated by four spots on the all-time scoring list and 2 months of age, who are in their golden years. Bryant is one of only three active players who has logged more career minutes than Nowitzki.
Nowitzki has been fortunate in his fight against Father Time. He’s managed to avoid major injuries throughout his career. The only instance of Nowitzki missing extended time occurred in 2012-13, when he sat out most of the first two months of the season after undergoing relatively minor arthroscopic knee surgery in October.
Nowitzki’s good health isn’t all due to luck. There’s a lot of work that goes into it, by Nowitzki and the Mavs’ medical and conditioning staffs. The Mavs have made managing his minutes a priority for several years, trimming them to under 30 per game this season, significantly fewer than Bryant was logging for the Lakers. Dallas also has managed to reduce the stress of Nowitzki’s minutes, surrounding him with players who are capable of lessening the burden on him, something the Lakers failed to do for Bryant last summer.
And Nowitzki’s game is certainly better-suited for success at an advanced age.
“You don’t see Dirk doing a whole lot of reverse jams,” Mavs owner Mark Cuban said. “Dirk doesn’t go up for an alley-oop. He goes up for an alley-under and worries about tripping over the line."
Nevertheless, Bryant’s problems are a painful reminder of how difficult it is for even the greatest to keep going into their mid-30s and beyond.
“You can’t take anything for granted in this league as you get older,” Nowitzki said. “You want to compete every night. You want to have fun doing it. You don’t want to get up every morning and have to fight to go to work, fight to stay out there. That’s not how I ever looked at basketball. As long as I feel good and I don’t have to take a bunch of pills to play … That’s not how I look at the game. It’s supposed to be fun.”
Kind of like sitting on the couch for Kobe time.
NEW ORLEANS -- The Dallas Mavericks are confident they are inching closer to the eventual signing of veteran center Jermaine O'Neal, according to team sources.
Sources told ESPN.com that the Mavericks -- who continue to closely monitor the 36-year-old center as O'Neal works out in preparation for a comeback -- hope to sign him by the All-Star break.
"We'll let you know when there's any breaking news, but right now, there's none," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said Sunday about Dallas' pursuit of O'Neal.
Sources say O'Neal has made it clear to interested teams that he doesn't intend to sign anywhere until he is closer to NBA game shape. After taking the first few months of the season to focus on family time and business trips, O'Neal has been working out intensely since the start of 2015 out of his home gym in Southlake, Texas, a suburb of Dallas.
O'Neal also traveled to Germany earlier this month for the same treatment on his knees that he credits for contributing to his success last season in Golden State. He posted pictures of the treatments on Instagram and wrote: "If you know me then you know what this means! But this is the 2nd step in a 3 step process!"
ESPN.com reported earlier this month that the Portland Trail Blazers, who drafted O'Neal out of high school in 1996, have also been trying to secure a commitment from the free-agent big man. But sources say the Mavericks firmly believe they have the inside track.
Roy Tarpley died in an Arlington, Texas, hospital earlier this month, with little fanfare for a player who should've been lumped with Dirk Nowitzki and Mark Aguirre as the best players ever to wear a Dallas Mavericks uniform.
Instead, the 6-foot-11 basketball savant teased fans with his immense talent and tormented them by regularly failing the drug tests that eventually ended his career in Dallas and in the NBA.
Tarpley, the seventh pick in the 1986 draft, played just 280 games for the Mavs. Really, all that's left from his time in Dallas are the memories of a couple of stellar regular seasons and his dynamic performance in the 1988 playoffs, when he averaged 17.9 points and 12.9 rebounds as the Mavs advanced to the Western Conference finals.
They couldn’t even get the ball to their go-to guy when they had a chance to win the game. Heck, the Mavs couldn’t get the ball inbounds, period. And unlike the New Orleans Pelicans on the previous possession, the Mavs didn’t get any assistance from a whistle.
Those final 12.3 seconds, when Murphy’s Law seemed to strike the Mavs, made Sunday’s 109-106 loss especially tough to swallow. It also meant Ellis’ 36 points went to waste.
“I thought it was breathtaking,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said of Ellis’ outing. “It was just a great performance. It was just unfortunate that we couldn’t get the ball in his hands on the last possession.”
Ellis, who was 16-of-27 from the floor, twice gave the Mavs a one-point lead with driving layups in the final minute.
But the Pelicans went ahead for good when star power forward Anthony Davis hit a pair of free throws with 12.3 seconds remaining, after referee Leon Wood called a foul on Tyson Chandler that prompted much complaining from the Mavs. Chandler attempted to deny an inbounds pass to Davis when he was called for the foul about 30 feet from the basket.
“The difference in the game was the whistles, really, the calls that were made,” Carlisle said. “Sometimes, that’s how it goes.”
Dirk Nowitzki described the foul call as “a tough one” and said that kind of contact happens at least 20 times per game.
“Especially down the stretch, there’s always some holding going on -- always,” Nowitzki said. “That’s part of being physical out there, especially down the stretch. I haven’t seen a whistle like that in a while, but nothing’s going to be given to us on the road. We still had enough chances.”
The Mavs had a chance to win on the next possession, when everyone in the Smoothie King Center knew Dallas wanted to put the ball in the hands of Ellis, whose 94 clutch points this season lead the league, according to NBA.com’s statistics.
“I was ready for it,” Ellis said. “I love those moments.”
The Pelicans were ready for it too. The combination of New Orleans’ stifling defense and a mental blunder by the Mavs prevented Dallas from successfully inbounding the ball -- twice.
With New Orleans double-teaming Ellis, inbounds passer Chandler Parsons still attempted to give the shooting guard the ball, but it was deflected out of bounds. Point guard Rajon Rondo then decided to replace Parsons as the inbounds passer, a role Parsons has played all season. With no timeouts and nobody open, Rondo was forced to throw a risky pass to Nowitzki, which Davis intercepted.
“That’s an easy play where you call a timeout, but we didn’t have another one left, so we kind of had to throw it up,” Nowitzki said. “It’s hard to lob it up over one of the longest guys in the league.”
The simple solution would have been for Ellis to bolt into the backcourt to catch the ball. However, Ellis incorrectly thought it would have been a backcourt violation, which made him much easier to cover.
“It’s on me because I’ve got to make sure I remind our guys that we can throw it in the backcourt,” Carlisle said. “Monta was trying to catch it in the frontcourt and just ran out of space, so we ended up in a scrambled possession, and Davis intercepted the ball. That’s my responsibility.”
Said Ellis: “As players, you have to know as well that you’re able to get backcourt. I forgot about it. There’s no one to blame.”
After Davis pushed the Pelicans’ lead to three by hitting another pair of free throws with 7.7 seconds remaining, Ellis had a chance to send the game into overtime.
But it wasn’t much of a chance: His 27-foot runner didn’t even hit the rim, so his 36 points before that didn’t matter.
NEW ORLEANS -- Anthony Davis capped a 28-point, 10-rebound outing with go-ahead free throws in the final seconds and a pivotal steal, and the New Orleans Pelicans won their third straight game, 109-106 over the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday night.
Monta Ellis scored 36 points, giving Dallas a 106-105 lead with a running scoop over Quincy Pondexter and Omer Asik with 12.3 seconds left, but Davis drew a foul from Tyson Chandler while receiving Evans' inbound pass and hit the go-ahead free throws.
Ellis had one more chance to tie it, but his 27-foot shot missed in the final seconds.
Nowitzki scored 24 points for Dallas, which has lost two straight.
Chandler exited the game with 7:33 remaining in the third quarter. He went down during a defensive possession after banging knees with Pelicans star Anthony Davis and needed assistance to leave the floor. Chandler put no pressure on his left leg as he left the floor.
"We’re very fortunate," coach Rick Carlisle said. "He banged knees and the fact he’s able to come back was huge. It’s a sigh of relief that he’s OK. At least he appears to be OK."
Chandler, a 14-year veteran who was a critical piece of the Mavs’ 2011 title run and returned to Dallas this summer in a trade, is having one of the best seasons of his career. He is averaging 10.7 points, ranks fourth in the NBA with 12.2 rebounds per game and serves as Dallas’ defensive anchor.
NEW ORLEANS -- Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said he plans to play Rajon Rondo in crunch time on a regular basis even though he benched the four-time All-Star point guard for the final 5:12 of Friday night's 102-98 loss to the Chicago Bulls.
"The other night's an aberration most likely," Carlisle said before Sunday's game against the New Orleans Pelicans. "We have a closing five. I just deviated from it the other night. I don't expect that to happen very often.
"Going forward, we play the whole game to set up the last five or six minutes to have a chance to win or catch somebody or close it out with a lead. Rondo's going to be in there most of the time. There's no doubt about that."
Carlisle explained Rondo's benching Friday as a "coach's decision" and declined to elaborate on his logic other than saying he went with a gut feeling.
Carlisle and the Mavs' front office have repeatedly raved about Rondo's proven clutch prowess since they acquired him from the Boston Celtics in a December blockbuster deal, saying his ability to find multiple ways to make critical plays reminded them of former Dallas point guard Jason Kidd.
The Mavs have succeeded with Rondo on the floor in clutch situations -- the final five minutes of a game with the score within five points -- outscoring opponents by 29 points in 28 minutes