Somewhere, probably in Los Angeles, Chandler Parsons is almost living his ideal life.
He’s one of the highest paid players in the NBA, being recognized for the skill and play that made him one of the Association’s most versatile wings. He’s basking in the sunshine of southern California, feeling the warmth that comes with ideal weather and being a wealthy, handsome young man. He gets media attention for his social life and can go anywhere in the world whenever he wants.
So why is it only almost ideal?
Because he’s rehabbing after surgery, and all the money and women in the world can’t buy two good knees.
When the time came to attempt to write a player grade for Chandler, I decided to take on the task with a different approach. His 2016-17 season was an absolute failure. Why waste 500 words rehashing the obvious disaster? His stats have been discussed over and over and over again, career lows almost across the board. The 40 year-old Vince Carter? Better this season than Chandler Parsons. The offensively limited Tony Allen? Better this season than Chandler Parsons.
The defensively challenged Troy Daniels, the role-player deluxe James Ennis III, fellow Grizzlies fan scapegoat Andrew Harrison...they all share the undeniable fact that they were better than max player Chandler Parsons in 2016-17.
He’s quickly become one of the most disliked Grizzlies players in Memphis history. Fans turned on him fast - the massive deal, the perceived lack of concern about the fact he wasn’t able to start the season healthy after a supposedly-less-serious knee surgery. But he hasn’t given them a reason to care - the fact that he doesn’t, and actively continues not to (hello, rehab in L.A.), fit into the idea of what this era of Grizzlies basketball has been about, hurts his cause. The bevy of TMZ stories of various actresses and Instagram models connected to Parsons flood the senses of ornery Memphis fans. Living the life of the wealthy NBA player on social media without being an actually good NBA player tends to piss people off.
ESPECIALLY Grizzlies fans. The fact that, after a massive jersey sale, it was mainly Parsons jerseys left hanging in the team store is evidence of that. And that's not to say he’s supposed to be Zach Randolph or Tony Allen and become a folk hero. Sometimes just being present is enough...but Chandler didn't always do even that.
So it went this year for Parsons - attempts to integrate into the lineup, nights off for “rest”, increasing frustration over playing time, and forcing it, and it started to impact the team. Finally, after flings with Kate Beckinsale and random Memphis Bella Thorne appearances bookended an awful season of actual basketball, the Grizzlies ended the suffering by declaring him out for the season due to yet another knee injury.
So who’s to blame? That is always the fun thing to do when things don’t work out in Memphis. Identify the source of the supposed problem, and point the finger squarely at one and only one source. It’s a Grizzlies fan tradition unlike any other.
Is it the front office, who overpayed to sign a player who some (including clearly the Dallas Mavericks and reportedly the Portland Trail Blazers) did not feel was worth a max contract? Is it the medical staff who surely signed off on the acquisition, thinking he would come back fine when he clearly did not? Is the coaching staff at fault for trying to force him into minutes, or the ownership and General Manager from above for forcing David Fizdale to make the effort?
Or is it simply Parsons himself? The lack of self-awareness shows a real disconnect with the community. He either doesn’t understand that Memphis is a different place and his “Chancun” and dating life would catch heat considering the injury context, or he doesn’t care. It’s not clear which one is worse. This is not to say that he shouldn’t live his life as he sees fit (you only get one life, after all), or that he’s to blame for his knees giving out. It is, however, important for him to understand his role in his own failures this season.
It’s not his fault he got hurt. It is his fault he didn’t make more of an effort to integrate himself in the the Memphis community. It isn’t his fault that he was offered a contract by the Memphis Grizzlies. It is his fault that he didn’t realize what goes along with belonging to that particular organization. For Memphis fans, they don’t just want investment in basketball. They want investment in Memphis, in the city, and in them.
Parsons has yet to do that fully. His rehab continues in L.A., the main reason given for him not being at end-of-season media availability. He was not in attendance at Game 6 against the Spurs, the last game of the Grizzlies season, for the same reason. Surely the team signed off on that decision, and Parsons would have been wherever the franchise that gave him so much money told him to be.
But how much did Parsons fight to say “I need to be with my team”? How much interest has there been in spending some rehab time in Memphis? Most of these Memphis fans won’t give a damn about Bella Thorne and his social life if he comes back in year two of this grand experiment and scores 16 points per game while shooting 38% from three. What hurts the most is the fact that it seems like Parsons is taking the money and running. It isn’t about being Memphis enough.
It’s about being IN Memphis enough.
So the failure of this past season is absolute. There is no best game. No bright rays of light shining through a dark cloud. Year one was miserable, and it wasn’t any one person’s fault. There is plenty of blame to go around.
But in life, the man in the glass is where all blame should start. Chandler Parsons could have been more present in Memphis. He should have been. But the perception of an interest in the Hollywood life and starlets, and not in his new NBA home, has created both a perceived and real rift between Parsons and the Grizzlies, especially their fans. That can be fixed. But it will take time, and effort, and it has to start with Chandler. His health is the biggest factor in just how good Memphis can be moving forward. Failure doesn’t define you. Your response to it does.
As Chandler Parsons lives his almost ideal life in L.A. this offseason, hopefully he begins to understand that. For everyone's sake.