The team dentist had an idea. His name is Sam Kane, and he told Robert Parish that he easily could expand his practice beyond the usual impacted wisdom tooth and the troubled back molar. Sam Kane said he would be glad to serve as Robert Parish's agent when this basketball season is finished.
"Stick with me," Sam Kane confided in the Boston Celtics' locker room last week. "I'll make you a rich man."
"I'm listening," Robert Parish said.
"I'll make you so rich that your cleaning lady will be driving a Mercedes Benz."
"She'll be able to go down and pick it out. Any color she wants."
"Sounds good. Tell me more."
"And you . . . I haven't even started to talk about you. You won't even have a Mercedes. You'll be too big for a Mercedes. You know what you'll be driving?"
"What'll I be driving?" Robert Parish asked with a mischievous smile.
"You'll be driving a Rolllllllllls," Sam Kane whispered.
The word and the image hung in the air, fanciful and perfect as if they had been created on the knee of a department-store Santa Claus. Mr Parish, you car is ready. Yes, why thank you, James. How about that? The whole thing is happening.
Robert Parish is on the verge of some wonderful money.
With every game he plays, the sound of cash registers ringing becomes more distinct. Another set of visitors moves on down the road mumbling something about "looks better than he ever did at Golden State, awesome, scores, blocks shots, mumble, mumble." The numbers on the score sheet - topped by a 33-point, 15-rebound performance on Wednesday night against the Atlanta Hawks - grow bigger and bigger. The numbers on a possible future contract grow bigger and bigger.
Robert Parish - in case anyone forgot - is in the final year of a five- year contract that he signed as a rookie with Golden State. He will be a free agent before Freddy Lynn will. The good things Robert Parish has done with the Celtics have helped the Celtics, but at the same time they have helped Robert Parish. There can be no more attractive bait in the sports marketplace than the 7-foot man who can help a team win a lot of basketball games. Not even the Swiss Army-knife, do-everything center fielder comes close.
The 27-year-old big man is developing some wonderful options.
"Do you like Boston?" he was asked last week.
"Yeh, I like Boston," he replied. "I thought from the beginning the trade would be good for me. I hated to leave the area - I really liked San Francisco - but ball-wise, the trade has been great."
"Are you settling in?" he was asked. "Have you bought a house or anything?"
"I'm waiting," he replied. "I want to see where I'm going to be next year."
The beauty of his situation is that next year the NBA will become a free agent's delight. All restrictions will be removed. The free agent truly will be able to sign with the highest bidder. There will be no forms of compensation. The player's present team - in this case, the Celtics - will have the right of first refusal, the right to match the highest offer, but otherwise the player will be free to move. He will get his money. One place. Or another.
"Let's say it looks better than ever for Robert," J. Payton Moore of Shreveport, La., Parish's real attorney, said yesterday. "We are aware of all the options."
There has been a rapid-fire quality to the way the big man's value has risen - the whisper was that he was all but traded in training camp until incumbent center Dave Cowens retired - but at the same time the improvement in his play has been a steady progression. Robert Parish was not accustomed to playing Celtic-style basketball. He was not accustomed to running downcourt on every play of every game. It took him time to catch his breath, to develop his wind, to lose a little weight and slide into his proper spot in the operation. He has used the time. He has used it well. He has fit.
"It took a while," the big man said. "I was sore and stiff. There were times I didn't think I could get through training camp - everybody yelling at me to keep running - but I did, and now it's OK. I'm surviving. I'm enjoying myself."
The Celtics say they will begin negotiations with Parish sometime during the season. General manager Red Auerbach says there is no rush, that he just wants Parish to play as well as he can and that money matters usually take care of themselves in the end. Parish agrees. He will talk. He will wait. He will do whatever the Celtics want. If this is to be a protracted audition, then so be it. The team is playing better and better. He is playing better and better. The expansion Dallas Mavericks appear at the Garden tonight at 7:30, and that is just another opportunity for growth, another opportunity to play, another opportunity to do better. The sound of the cash registers does not stop.
"You hear 'em?" the big man was asked.
"Sound good to me," he replied.