On December 27, in a game against the Lakers in LA, Chandler Parsons played 18 minutes, posting 5 points on a measly 2-of-5 shooting.
It was the last time Parsons took the floor for the Grizzlies.
There’s been radio silence on Parsons since, the only updates coming with each passing game as the Grizzlies PR account lists Parsons as “Out” with knee soreness. Last Saturday, the Grizzlies even spiced it up, adding “illness” to the list.
With the season going the way it has, it’s hard to see Parsons playing again until opening night 2018. But it’s now also worth wondering if Parsons’ professional basketball career is over.
All the drama of last year should have disabused Grizzlies fans of the possibility that Parsons would ever live up to his max contract, but Parsons looked like a different player this season. Even if he never really "earned" all of his money, he could at least contribute positive minutes, something he never managed in his inaugural season in the Bluff City.
Even those days seem long past at this point. The Grizzlies have been mum on the subject. If Grizzlies fans want clarity on the topic, they may just have to wait for TMZ to show up.
I kid, of course. At least, I think I kid.
This all sounds terrible, like the Grizzlies may never get anything more than what we've already seen out of the biggest free agent in their history, but as strange as it sounds, the Grizzlies might be better off if Parsons can’t play.
Just last offseason, the Miami Heat waived Chris Bosh when a medical condition threatened to end not only Bosh’s basketball career, but his life as well. By doing so, the Heat were able to save over $70 million of cap space.
Parsons’ knee injury is nowhere near as dire as Bosh’s situation, but if he can’t go, there’s a chance that the Grizzlies can get Parsons’ money off the salary cap without having to stretch his cap hit over multiple seasons, giving the Grizzlies financial wiggle room in the short-term as well as the long-term.
Per the NBA’s labor agreement, a player is considered to have a career-ending injury if:
...it is determined that the player has an injury or illness that (i) prevents him from playing skilled professional basketball at an NBA level for the duration of his career, or (ii) substantially impairs his ability to play skilled professional basketball at an NBA level and is of such severity that continuing to play professional basketball at an NBA level would subject the player to medically unacceptable risk of suffering a life-threatening or permanently disabling injury or illness...
If "a doctor that is jointly selected by the league and the players association agree that [Parsons] condition is career ending," the Grizzlies would be able, upon the one-year anniversary of Parsons’ last game, to waive Parsons. This would clear the remaining amount of Parsons’ contract from the Grizzlies books, freeing up almost $24 million per year of cap space. Parsons would still get that money—NBA contracts are guaranteed, after all—but the Grizzlies should recoup some cash from an insurance policy, and their cap would be cleared of Parsons completely.
We are a long way from that point. There’s a chance that Parsons is being held out simply because the season is lost and the front office hopes the Grizzlies, after running it back next season, can use Parsons to contribute to another playoff run or two. But if he’s not, there’s at least a light at the end of the tunnel.
If Parsons does play, it’s impossible for fans to expect much more than sporadic minutes, a worse fate for the on-court product and a far-worse fate for the Grizzlies cap situation. We’re still far from that point, but at this point it’s at least worth having the discussion and wondering if Parsons’ playing days are over.
Any positivity regarding Parsons remaining from the start of the season is gone. Now, the sad truth is that the Grizzlies may be better off if Parsons never sees the court again rather than the cameos that have become the hallmark of his time in Memphis.