By Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com
The self-described best recruiter in the NBA helped talk a star center into leaving Los Angeles to come to Texas a couple of summers ago.
This is a much bigger challenge for Chandler Parsons.
Dwight Howard didn’t have roots in L.A., spending a lone, lousy season with the Lakers before heading to Houston. DeAndre Jordan, on the other hand, has spent his entire seven-year career with the Los Angeles Clippers.
Howard left behind a Lakers squad that was swept in the first round after squeaking into the playoffs. The Clippers dismissed the defending champions in the first round and came within a collapse of advancing to the Western Conference finals.
Howard also knew he’d be playing with another star in his prime in Houston, as James Harden just had a breakout year during his first season with the Rockets. As confident as Parsons is that his production will soar when the Mavs put the ball in his hands more, he isn’t a proven commodity as a star.
(One similarity for Howard and Jordan as they went into free agency: Reported friction with a teammate who is the face of the franchise.)
The Dallas Mavericks are trying to convince Jordan to leave L.A. for a lot less glamorous city to play for a team that wasn’t as good last season. This won’t be easy. But it is possible with Parsons as the primary pitchman.
As ESPN.com reported Sunday night, the Mavs are widely considered the biggest threat to woo Jordan away from L.A. That doesn’t mean the Mavs are the favorites. The Clippers, whose five-year, $109 million offer can’t be matched by other suitors, are still the team to beat.
And the Mavs aren’t putting all of their eggs in the Jordan basket. The Mavs are also in the mix for perennial All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge, a Dallas native, along with the favored San Antonio Spurs, the Lakers and others.
But Jordan is Parsons’ pet project, with all due respect to Tyson Chandler, a terrific teammate and top-10 center who is six years older than Jordan. The seeds of the friends, who share an agent, potentially playing together one day were planted long ago. It became a priority for Parsons as soon as the Clippers’ season ended.
Parsons has been relentlessly recruiting Jordan for the last six weeks, probably calling and texting the third-team All-NBA center as much as he contacts his supermodel girlfriend. Parsons made a recent trip to Houston to hang with Jordan. Parsons hopped a flight to L.A. immediately after the draft to get more face time with Jordan as free agency approaches – and free agent shooting guard Wesley Matthews has also been spotted with them.
"I have a lot of close relationships and that's just part of my DNA and part of my personality, to talk with people and be cool with people,” Parsons said Friday on 103.3 FM ESPN. “I have a lot of friends in this league, to be honest. Every summer or every free agency, I have no problem going out there and telling them how I feel and trying to recruit them to play for us.
“I'm in multiple conversations with people and seeing a lot of people, so it all comes down to what they want to do. All I can do at this point is give them advice and state the facts."
The Mavs and Parsons aren’t inclined to share details of the pitch they’ll make to the center during a meeting that is expected to happen Wednesday morning. However, it isn’t hard to figure out that the Mavs will focus heavily on giving the 26-year-old Jordan the chance to be a franchise cornerstone instead of being Lob City’s third wheel behind All-Stars Paul and Blake Griffin.
“A lot of guys, like myself last summer, will want to take that next step in their career and come into their own and get the credit and love they deserve and become the player they know they can become,” Parsons said, not speaking specifically about Jordan.
Parsons wasn’t able to take that next step last season, in part due to injuries. Part of his job as the lead recruiter is to convince Jordan that will change with Monta Ellis exiting and the Mavs’ offense running through Parsons. He must make Jordan believe that they can form the foundation of a future contender, running a steady diet of 3/5 pick-and-rolls.
To put it mildly, Parsons doesn’t lack for confidence.
"That's the reason I came here,” Parsons said. “That was the plan for me: to come here for a bigger role, and to be a star. I think I'm more than ready to do that.
"Last year, it took me a year to get comfortable. Monta had some great games for us and a lot of the offense ran through him. Obviously with him possibly not coming back, I will see more touches, the offense will go through me, the ball will be in my hands more. I'll get a chance to do what I do best and get everyone involved and play that point forward position that I can do just as good as anyone in the league."
Best point forward in the NBA? Um, some dude named LeBron might disagree.
Best recruiter in the league? Parsons can prove that this summer.