It only took 18 months for Chandler Parsons to realize how smart he'd be to take shots with his teammate and sixth-leading scorer of all time.
"He waited a year and a half to ask me," Dirk Nowitzki joked, before relenting slightly. "No, we've shot before, we even shot last year together. Sometimes it's just a matter of being in a good groove."
Fresh off a season-high 30-point explosion, Parsons clearly is in one. With Dirk sitting out with knee swelling, Parsons led the way with 13-of-20 shooting, including 3-of-6 behind the arc and eight rebounds. Afterwards, Dirk said Parsons joked that he was "holding him back" and he might sit out a few more games, just in case.
Obviously, the real reason is Parsons' health. After hybrid microfracture knee surgery last May, Parsons has had a long road to recovery, missing the season's first three games and dealing with minute restrictions until basically the start of 2016. But daily shooting sessions with a first-ballot Hall of Famer can't hurt, either, right?
"Pretty much (we shoot) every day, even on off days we come in," Parsons said afterwards. "I wouldn't want to work with anyone else in the league, ever. It's a resource I've had for over a year now and I'm just now starting to take advantage of it."
The sessions aren't intensive or grueling -- more friendly competition, Parsons explained. "Just little pointers, nothing too drastic," he said, then grinned. "A lot of shit talking."
But even at Parsons' highest moment all season, head coach Rick Carlisle wouldn't anoint Parsons as the team's new scoring leader.
"He's not arrived," Carlisle said. "This is another step, this is a strong step towards the goal, which is 100 percent health, 100 percent conditioning, rhythm, all those things. The fact that he was able to make a variety of shots in overtime when he was fatigued, that's a great sign, that's a great sign. But let's not assume that, 'Hey, this is the guy whose back we're going to jump on every time in crunch time,' (because) that's not fair to him."
Carlisle, asked if he was just lowering expectations for the Mavericks' $46-million man, continued: "I'm not lowering expectations -- I'm creating a situation where he's allowed to achieve at the right pace, the proper pace. He and Wesley Matthews are some percentage of the way they're going to be, but they're not there yet. I've been through season-long injuries trying to come back, I understand this is a long process. I remember when Dirk was out for 27 games, it took months for him. It's going to be the same way here.
"Tonight shows you how hard Parsons has worked. He's worked his butt off. He's worked harder than he ever has, and I think he appreciates the game more than he ever has because of the struggles you go through with a surgery like this. I'm very happy for him. It's great. It's going to give him great confidence. But let's keep our eye on the ball here."
Parsons understands this, even if he would much prefer to be closing every game and earning more touches.
"Just because I had a good game tonight it doesn't mean my knee is magically 100 percent, and it probably won't be all year," he said. "As long as I can continue to manage it and get stronger, and keep being confident, I can continue to play at a high level."
The Mavericks are only a few games past the halfway point of the season. There's more than 40 games left to play when you consider an almost certain playoff series. That's dozens more shooting sessions with Dirk and plenty of time for Parsons to get as healthy as he possibly can this year, reaching or at least approaching the player Dallas expected when they signed him in the summer of 2014.
The Mavericks have hope that Parsons will just stay in the same groove he's been in, but there's not expectations, at least not for the moment. Except maybe for his shooting sessions with Dirk and as much shit talk as those two can possibly muster.