It’s important to maintain perspective.
The Memphis Grizzlies lost a meaningless preseason game last night to the Atlanta Hawks, 100-88. The result of this contest will most likely not play into the final standings when the regular season ends about six months from now, but the possible ramifications of how we got there may.
It isn’t the fact that Marc Gasol’s return to the lineup was flat offensively (4 points on 2 of 9 shooting), but promising on the glass (13 rebounds in 22 minutes!). It wasn’t the team’s continued preseason struggles shooting the long ball (4 for 22 overall as a team, good for an awful 18.2%). It wasn’t even the horrible 19 turnovers Memphis committed (4 of which came from Mario Chalmers in his worst game since his return), since Atlanta had 26 themselves.
The Grizzlies had been off for five days and were playing a Hawks team in a college arena due to maintenance on Atlanta’s arena . While you want your team to always perform well, a poor showing tonight makes some sense and also isn’t cause for concern.
Where the concern lies is within the rotation. In previous games, whether it was because JaMychal Green wasn’t ready to start or Marc Gasol was sitting out, Chandler Parsons has been starting at the stretch four position. On this night, the first where both Gasol and Green were available, Parsons did not start on the wing as was expected by many. Instead, James Ennis III and Andrew Harrison drew the first shift for the Grizzlies on the perimeter next to Mike Conley, Gasol, and Green.
This means Chandler Parsons came off the bench, and played primarily as the back-up power forward in just nine minutes of action. Of course, the minutes aren’t really the major issue. It’s the preseason after all, and head coach David Fizdale has shown the desire to try different things and give different players priority from game to game at this stage of the long NBA season process.
But noted NBA mind Zach Lowe mentioned the possibility of Parsons as a bench player, and Chris Herrington of the Commercial Appeal mentioned the same kind of possibility in his column yesterday. Fizdale himself, according to an article from Ron Tillery of the same Commercial Appeal, feels that this may be the best use of Chandler, which could lead to him feeling less expectations.
...acknowledged that Parsons can play free of pressure to be the Grizzlies’ undisputed third-best player.”
That’s one national (Lowe) and two local (Herrington/Tillery) writers acknowledging the fact that Chandler may well not be a true wing anymore, and also may not be a starter, and it’s possible that he may be best used as a bench stretch four in 15-20 minutes per game when the regular season starts next week.
There are two ways to take this.
One, probably the more positive way, is to say that having this version of Parsons is better than not having him at all. He can be a facilitator with that second unit, he can create for Tyreke Evans with that second unit, and he can have Evans and Mario Chalmers do the same for him with that second unit. It allows for whatever step or two that he’s lost to be negated some while his offensive presence improves a bench unit that could use his skill. It could work out...
Then, there’s the negative view.
You can spin it however you’d like, but Chandler Parsons was signed to be the third best player on this team. If he’s not physically able to do that, this team has real potential problems. You start to count on Ben McLemore, currently unhealthy and full of potential, but lacking in actual solid NBA play to this point in his career. You count on Mario Chalmers, coming off of an Achilles injury that cost him an entire year of his career.
You count on Tyreke Evans, who has played in fewer games over the past three seasons (144) than Parsons (161). You count on JaMychal Green to be your third best player who the organization wasn’t willing to pay over a certain amount to retain, and James Ennis III and Wayne Selden Jr. who were D, now G, league players just a year or two ago to now be starters on a potential playoff team. Or Brandan Wright, who has played in 40 games over the course of his two seasons in Memphis.
Some of those pieces may work out, take advantage of the situation they find themselves in, and rise to the opportunity. But it feels extremely unlikely that all of those players hit the way they’ll need to in order for the Grizzlies to make the playoffs if Parsons cannot be what he was brought in to be.
That isn’t to condemn Fizdale and his staff for possibly doing what’s best for the team, or even the front office for signing Parsons in the first place. Some will do one, or both, but this space isn’t going to be the place where you will find those criticisms. It’s simply an acknowledgement that the team itself may not be able to compensate for what could quite possibly be a crippling signing for the tail end of the Gasol and Conley core, unless the stretch provision is discussed as a possibility. And it may well be somewhere down the road...perhaps sooner rather than later.
It’s also possible that this is all an overreaction and Parsons is a starter and looks good on opening night. But that feels less likely than ever before, and that would likely limit what the Grizzlies can be this season, and perhaps beyond.
What was a meaningless preseason game in Atlanta all of a sudden feels a lot more important.