You knew certain things were going to happen when the Celtics shipped Cedric Maxwell west for Bill Walton: Larry Bird would be guarding small forwards, Kevin McHale would retire his Sixth Man Trophy, and the Celtics would be adopted by an assortment of health freaks, rock bands and '60s burnouts.
But no one dared speculate that Cambridge Bill would make Robert Parish a better player. In fact, many Celtic fans worried that Parish would pout about the presence of Walton on the Celtic bench.
There have been no problems between Parish and Walton, and since the redhead arrived, it can safely be stated that Parish has played the pivot better than anyone in the NBA. The Chief is averaging 18 points and 10.6 rebounds in 32 minutes per game while shooting 56 percent from the floor and 78 percent from the line.
In the last four games, he has averaged 23 points and 12.7 rebounds while hitting 62 percent from the floor and 82 percent from the line. Parish has an astounding 25 offensive rebounds in the four games. Moses who?"Robert has carried us," says Bird. "We've been struggling from the outside, but Kevin and him have been doing most of the work. People tend to forget how good Robert is."
"Robert is playing as well as I've ever seen him play," adds McHale.Walton's name pops up every time someone tries to explain Parish's early- season tear.Parish says, "Early in the ball game, I'm playing more aggressively. I used to worry about foul trouble, but now I just go out and play because we got somebody who can come in. Having Bill around, I can go all out and be reckless."
Coach K.C. Jones says, "I think Bill Walton has a lot to do with Robert's performance. In our first scrimmage, it was like a battle of giants. They've shown tremendous respect for each other."After watching Parish destroy the Knicks Saturday night with 27 points and 12 rebounds (nine offensive boards), New York coach Hubie Brown said, "What Parish sees is that if he doesn't play hard night in and night out, he's going to be sitting on the bench. You don't have to be Einstein to figure that out. I think Robert Parish is intelligent enough to see that if he does not play hard, he'll be sitting on the bench a long time.
Never underestimate the motivation factor.
"The motivation factor works both ways, however. While Parish may be pushed in practice and prodded by the presence of Walton, he's also getting some much-needed rest because of the quality backup. Parish played only 28 minutes Saturday. He's rested and running the floor as well as he ever has. Meanwhile, the Celtics hope that fewer 40-minute nights will mean a fresher, more productive Parish when the play-offs roll around."As long as he doesn't get tired, he's one of the best centers in the league," notes McHale."I'd pick Robert over anyone, the way he's playing right now," adds Jones.