"How does the Chief still do it?"
By now, of course, Celtics fans know that the 38-year-old Parish is getting better with age, keeps himself in great shape, rarely misses a game, and remains a key part of the Boston team.
Parish is beginning his 16th season in the NBA, his 12th with Boston. And there are a few milestones he will pass if his durability holds up, as it has for the previous 15 years.
For starters, if he plays 74 games - and he hasn't played fewer in any of his previous seasons, he will pass Paul Silas on the career NBA games-played list. That would put him in fourth place overall behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Elvin Hayes and John Havlicek.
He needs 481 points - he had 1,207 last year - to become the 16th player to score 20,000 career points. Not bad for someone whose offensive role has diminished over the years.
"I find that amazing given the number of shots I get," he said, laughing.
By the second game of the season, he will in all probability become the 12th player in NBA history to amass 12,000 rebounds. He needs 14. And when he blocks his 48th shot of the season, he will have accumulated 2,000 rejections.
Only one other NBA player, Abdul-Jabbar, has grabbed 12,000 rebounds and blocked 2,000 shots. A qualifier: blocked shots were not an official NBA stat until 1977, so people such as Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and Nate Thurmond are excluded.
All of these achievements likely will happen in a Boston uniform. If there are to be more next year, there will have to be another contract.
Parish has said he'd like to stay in Boston and play until he's 40. Celtics owner Alan Cohen said in a recent interview that if Parish continues to play at his present level, the Chief can count on a new deal "and he won't have to take a pay cut." Cohen also noted that at age 38, "you can lose it like that."
Asked for his thoughts, Parish said he anticipated a battle. "Management always takes a defensive posture. I'm sure they'll do it to me. They didn't want to give me two years when I was 36. I can imagine what it'll be when I'm 38. They'll play hardball."
And then, unsolicited, he noted that the starting small forward from last year's team, Kevin Gamble, is unsigned and not in camp. Parish hasn't been in on the negotiations, but he said he has a pretty good idea who's to blame.
"It's the Celtics. Look what they're doing to Kevin Gamble. They are nickel and diming him to death," Parish said. "He is a major part of this team and he should be in camp.
"They had all summer to get it done. Why didn't they? They signed Kevin McHale. They signed Rick Fox. This guy is a hard worker, keeps his mouth shut, doesn't make waves. There's no reason he shouldn't be signed."
Over the weekend, Celtics boss Dave Gavitt said there was nothing new in the Gamble negotiations. Under NBA rules, Gamble cannot come to camp unless he has a contract.
As for Parish, he is going through another month of drudgery, also known as training camp.
"It's the toughest time of year for me," he said. "Once the season starts, everything else is easy."
It hasn't always been that way for him in Boston. Coach Chris Ford remembers Bill Fitch running Parish ragged. That was 11 years ago.
"It really is mind boggling," Ford said. "You look what he does for this team. When Kareem was his age, he didn't have to run and he really wasn't as much an integral part of their team as Robert is here."
Michael Smith was unable to practice because of an infected big toe on his left foot. Smith said he has had the problem all through training camp, but didn't want to miss any workouts . . . John Bagley went through some of the early drills but did not scrimmage. He has an infected left eye. That left only 11 bodies for the practice. Asked about possible cuts, Ford laughed and said, "I can't cut anybody. We'll stick with the guys we have for the foreseeable future." . . . The schedule this week calls for another set of back-to-backers, this time against the Knicks. The two meet tomorrow night in Madison Square Garden and Wednesday night in Hartford. "It's good for us that we play teams that like to run because that's what we want to do, too," said Larry Bird. "The Lakers like to run and you can bet that with Pat Riley coaching them, the Knicks will run, too." This is Boston's first look at the Riley Knicks. In addition to the coach, they've added Xavier McDaniel to the mix. And Anderson Hunt and Greg Anthony will be able to swap UNLV war stories.