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Chandler Parsons Deserves Better

Home should be where the heart is. For Parsons, Memphis isn’t there just yet.

NBA: Preseason-Orlando Magic at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Frustration makes us all do things we regret.

Chandler Parsons probably will wish that he didn’t say what he said last night after the Memphis Grizzlies defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 103-91. The words went something like this...

Calling the booing of a home player tasteless? Not so regrettable. Treating home games like road ones? Not fair to the fans who were trying to be supportive of Chandler, and not the best way to win over those who already aren’t on your side.

But the booing of Parsons in and of itself is more of a symptom of a larger problem than an isolated few fans frustrated with missed free throws. This is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy for almost everyone involved. Chandler knows he is struggling. He isn’t stupid. When you’re losing, or in Chandler’s particular case playing poorly, it can become a vicious circle that is hard to fight out of. You need support, which clearly he has from his teammates. Their post-game quotes illustrate that-

In the supposedly friendly confines of FedExForum, the fans should be an extension of that support, especially for a player who isn’t playing particularly well and whose ability to perform directly connects to the ceiling of success the team can reach. But the boo birds came out as Chandler bricked free throws, and those who booed were likely looking for reasons to do so. Chances are they weren’t sold on Chandler from the beginning, whether it be as a player or as a person.

That’s where the issue lies. Not in a single missed free throw, or even multiple misses, but in the perception of Chandler, and some fans want validation for how they view him.

Tony Allen missed multiple lay-ups in single games while throwing the ball everywhere around FedExForum except for to a teammate as a Grizzly. Zach Randolph missed so many bunnies and gathered his own rebound that a term was created for it over the years - the Z-Bound. Both had questionable things occur off the court over the course of their careers, especially when they were younger. Everyone makes mistakes.

But those two are beloved figures in Memphis, though, and for good reason. They earned the respect and adulation of the fan base over time through good-to-great play and their warts were forgiven, as Tony Allen alluded to in his great Players’ Tribune piece yesterday.

Parsons hasn’t had that opportunity yet for a variety of reasons that have been discussed here, there, and everywhere. That should be understood at this stage. And yet here we are, not focusing on the better second half Chandler had defending Anthony Davis, making a three-point shot, and doing some good things passing the ball on his road back after a tough start to his Grizzlies tenure, but on his early struggles and how some fans reacted to them.

Fans have the right to be frustrated. Even angry. And as Coach Fizdale said, Chandler can be an easy target for disdain in some ways. But time and again, we’re told by the organization that Parsons is doing everything right. He’s trying his best to get back to what he once was, or even close to what he was. Story after story, and post after post have been published about the effort, energy, and time invested by the Grizzlies and Parsons on treatments, rehab, and training to get Chandler right. All that, and yet he can’t start on a team that boasts James Ennis III as its current starting wing.

You know who’s probably most mad about that? Chandler Parsons.

Not at David Fizdale, or at Ennis, but at himself and the situation he’s in. But he chose, at least publicly, to be a team player and acknowledge that this is what’s best for the franchise at the moment. He hopes to find his footing and contribute as best he can, however Fizdale and his staff decide to deploy him. As a basketball player, he’s doing everything within his power. He says so, his teammates and coaches say so. Maybe we should take them at their word.

And we should hope that Parsons does figure it out, because last night’s result aside, Memphis needs him to be at least somewhat close to what he once was in order to compete with the best of the Western Conference. The Pelicans were injury depleted last night, and at best they’re a possible playoff team. Grizzlies fans want a squad that can compete and maybe even beat San Antonio and Golden State and Oklahoma City and Houston and the best of the west. That is not possible unless Chandler can get back to who he used to be as a basketball player.

Maybe, in that case, we should all cheer for the guy who was paid to be the third best player on your team but was the 10th man entering the game against New Orleans. He has a long ways to go, and may never get to where some of us hoped he would be. But he is doing all he can on his end. Fans need to give him time, and support. Be mad at Chris Wallace, who signed him. Be mad at the medical staff who cleared him.

Let a player who is down keep trying to get back up. Whether you like him or not, he’s with us.

If you aren’t a fan of the way he carries himself off the court, you’re entitled to that opinion. Chandler’s lifestyle, and the way it plays out on social media (especially last season), invites that to some extent. But as a fan of the team, the boos shouldn’t rain down on a home player who, when it comes to his job, is doing all within his control to be better. The body fails us all at some point in one way or another. He is grinding through it in a very public way, trying to fight out of the tough spot he is in.

He shouldn’t have to fight his home fans in the process.

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