The list of despised Memphis Grizzlies perimeter players is long but distinguished.
Nick Calathes. O.J. Mayo. Rudy Gay. Tayshaun Prince. Jeff Green. And that’s just in the past few years! Gone are the Shane Battier/James Posey/Mike Miller days of love for guys on the wing. Memphis has come to really dislike several of their most recent outside the paint pieces.
Gay and Green especially drew the ire of a majority of Memphis Grizzlies fans. Rudy Gay’s end of game isolation plays that ended with a dribble off the foot and Jeff Green’s general game/existence overwhelmed any good that they did.
Yes, despite popular opinion, both players did make some positive contributions as Grizzlies.
But their negatives (which were numerous) overrode those good moments and left many with a bad taste in their mouth. And the lost potential of Rudy Gay likely fed into doubts about Jeff Green being “The Answer”- that and Green not being as good at basketball as some (including me) thought he was. Both players disappointed and left Memphis with a whimper.
Enter Chandler Parsons.
Parsons is the biggest free agent signing in Memphis Grizzlies history. This is not debatable. Chandler is also arguably the best combination of talent and meeting a need that the Grizzlies have acquired in some time. His skill set fits the team perfectly as a creator off the pick and roll and as a scorer/facilitator offensively. He showed that time and again in Houston and Dallas, and while health was clearly a concern going into his free agency, one does not simply get a max contract for doing nothing.
His play, and the market, called for it. It was a shot Memphis had to take. And it still may work out. But he’s had a terrible start to his tenure as a Grizzly, largely because of those injury concerns - his knees have created more trouble than expected early on in his 4-year, $94 million contract.
Despite this being year one of that four-year deal, many have already reached a final opinion about Parsons. As the trade deadline approaches, some fans have asked about the possibility of moving Chandler. Others don’t want to trade him, but think he should move to the bench in favor of a James Ennis or Troy Daniels type of player.
Ennis and Daniels, two players who make $3 million or so as dictated by the market last summer, playing in front of Parsons, whose play in the NBA meant his worth was seven times that. Even if you believe the Portland Trail Blazers did not offer Chandler the max (a possibility), he still received far more contract interest than Ennis or Daniels.
Probably because he is better than them.
Right now, though? The numbers say he isn’t. Parsons is 10th on the team in points per game, he’s one of the worst shooters on the roster at 35%, he is a defensive problem, and his process toward getting back to full speed has disrupted the rotations of Head Coach David Fizdale.
Those are the facts. But here’s another one - it’s very difficult to come into the middle of a season due to injury and try to find yourself as a player, especially on a new team.
Another fact - Parsons has three more years on his contract and is 28 years old.
And another one - a healthy Chandler Parsons makes these Grizzlies a real threat to reach the Western Conference Finals. Ennis and Daniels don’t move the needle the way Parsons can.
No one is saying he’s better than Marc Gasol or Mike Conley. That was never to be his role. He was to be that third option, the scorer who can create for himself and for others. And while he’s nowhere near that guy right now, he’s on the roster and he has actively shown in the past that, when healthy, he can make any offense more dangerous.
Yet so many fans are actively turning against Parsons. 69% disapprove of Parsons as a Grizzly so far according to a Memphis Commercial Appeal poll, despite the fact he is returning from injury. Respected media members like Geoff Calkins in the Commercial Appeal are critiquing Chandler’s All-Star break vacation and social media use. Calls for less social media posts about planes, parties, dates, and asking inappropriate things of women (ok that one is fair), and more for photos of the gym and shooting.
Like he isn’t doing any of those things because they aren’t posted?
He then shared a picture of him on a training bike while on vacation, and said in a Twitter Q&A that he always brings someone with him on those trips to workout/train with. Were there any tweets or posts congratulating him?
No. And there didn’t need to be. But he also didn’t need to be criticized for going on vacation in the first place.
Grizzlies fans have made an interesting progression over the years with wings. Rudy Gay time and again proved not to be the player so many hoped he would be. From that point on, however, others came to Memphis and were given less and less opportunity to prove themselves. Jeff Green was given a chance by many at first, but the tide quickly turned against him.
Now Chandler Parsons has some calling his signing and Grizzlies tenure a failure 58 games into a four-season contract, in a year where he has yet to be 100% fit. He is being put into a category of failed Grizzlies wings before he’s even able to show what he’s capable of in Memphis, at least for Memphis - he has lit up the Grizzlies like a Christmas tree in the past in FedExForum.
Why is his injury not enough reason to play the waiting game? Because he isn’t what fans think a “Memphis” Grizzly should be? Because he enjoys things that a “Memphis” person wouldn’t enjoy? What does that mean in a city that’s supposedly so kind to and accommodating of others? How does that reflect on a fan base that was willing to give players like Tony Allen and Zach Randolph second chances, but won’t even allow Parsons a first chance to perform at his best and earn the praise or criticism that he gets?
In what way does it make sense to actively cheer against a player who, if he plays at his best, could help your team compete for an opportunity at an NBA title? Why aren’t folks actively cheering for a speedy recovery instead of bashing such a key contributor?
Parsons may not get back to 100% this season. He may well be “washed” overall, and come next training camp, look to be the same player he is now. It’s possible that this goes down as one of the worst contracts in Grizzlies history, that Chandler eats the Grizzlies salary cap and ruins the peak years of Mike Conley and Marc Gasol. We may look back at this as “the shot that fell flat”, the swing for the fences that led to a big tumble and fall.
But we are nowhere near that at this stage.
Why not give the guy a chance to find himself? What happened to patience? The Grizzlies are solidly in the playoffs - this is a perfect opportunity for them to get Parsons right. Besides, Memphis has had far worse character players in the past - Matt Barnes, Gilbert Arenas, and Javaris Crittenton come to mind - so why go against someone who enjoys life differently than you and that is their major “flaw”, if you are being fair about his injury impacting his play?
Why does it matter to claim someone is not “Memphis” enough when he hasn’t had a chance to show what he is capable of on the court? Isn’t Memphis supposed to be a place to prove yourself despite how you look? Where reinvention and rebirth are not only supported, but encouraged? Critiquing someone for the way they live that doesn’t directly hurt others, and that being a major argument against them, doesn’t seem very “Memphis”...again, whatever that means.
Shunning the best free agent acquisition in Grizzlies history after 58 games where he has not played consistently and hasn’t been himself is not the best moment in the history of Memphis sports fandom. Considering the fact Parsons’ success is directly connected to the Grizzlies chances at achieving their ultimate goal as a team, perhaps resetting our collective perception of Parsons as the sprint to the playoffs begins on Friday would be the best move. Some have already made up their mind on Chandler, though - and that’s a shame.
Everybody hates Chandler Parsons. I get the emotion; it isn’t new for the Grizzlies and wing players. But don’t allow for the sins of the past and frustration of the present to cloud just how important Parsons is to Memphis’ future.