HOUSTON -- Chandler Parsons says he feels like a veteran. Marcus Morris says he doesn't. Parsons enters the summer league simply trying to improve. Morris enters the summer league with something to prove.
Such was the state of the Houston Rockets' sophomore class as practice began Sunday for the NBA Summer League, which the Rockets begin Friday in Las Vegas. Parsons and Morris begin their second NBA seasons from distinct, almost antithetical, points of view. Parsons was a second-round draft pick from Florida who ended up as his team's starting shooting guard and one of the biggest surprises in the NBA. Morris was a lottery pick from Kansas who spent most of his rookie season in the NBA Developmental League.
When somebody asked Morris, a versatile 6-foot-8 tweener forward, if he had more of a chip on his shoulder this year, he responded by saying "definitely" five times in a row, then continued.
"I gotta be aggressive this year about getting on the court," he said.
He was then asked how he could go about doing that.
"Compete," he said. "Beat somebody's ass."
This is all because the Rockets are constantly adding players who look and play a lot like Morris does. They used two first-round draft picks to take Terrence Jones, a 6-9 tweener forward, and Royce White, a 6-8 tweener forward. This is in addition to Parsons, a 6-foot-9 small forwardshooting guard and Patrick Patterson, a 6-9 power forward.
"Those guys are my size, but I'm talented," said Morris, who played 126 minutes in 17 games last year. "I can do a lot of things, so I'm just going to continue to work, continue to get better... I just want to get out on the court and show everyone what I can do."
Parsons, on the other hand, is in something resembling a leadership position. He and newcomer Manny Harris are the only members of the Rockets summer league team with any significant NBA experience. Parsons averaged 9.5 points and 4.8 rebounds in 28.6 minutes per game as a rookie.
"This year, with everybody getting traded, I'm gonna have a leadership role," Parsons said. "So I'm excited to go to Vegas and not necessarily play every game, but be a voice for the guys."
That may apply to the winter roster too.
Point guards Kyle Lowry and Goran Dragic are both gone from last year's team. So is center Samuel Dalembert and small forward Chase Budinger. Marcus Camby is a free agent and shooting guard Kevin Martin and power forward Luis Scola are imminently tradable.
You can imagine how delighted coach Kevin McHale must be about the prospect of coaching such a roster.
"It's going to be challenging, there's no question about that," he said. "We're gonna have to play harder. We're gonna have to do all the dirty work stuff. We're gonna have to be much more of a blue-collar, dirty-work, grind-it-out team."
It is, of course, only July. The beginning of the season is four months away and it seems unlikely that Morris, White, Jones, Parsons and Patterson will all be on the Rockets in November. To a man, the Rockets say there is some anxiety associated with all of the trade rumors, but that they avoid the topic as much as possible.
Naturally, McHale would like to see general manager Daryl Morey make a deal for a star player, and no Rocket is untouchable.
"I don't know who's coming," McHale said. "I know we have a bunch of rookies coming. We did draft them. It's hard for them to get out of their contracts. I think we have restricted free agents we've talked to, and we've got a bunch of people we haven't signed yet. Other than that, it's like door No. 3. When we open up door No. 3, I'll be able to tell you what's behind door No. 3."
In the meantime, there is Parsons.
"I'm a vet now," he said. "These guys are going to be bringing me donuts."
And there is Morris.
"I don't feel like a veteran," he said. "This ain't Kansas."