There likely hasn’t been a more divisive topic amongst Grizzlies fans than Chandler Parsons over the past two years.
Parsons hasn’t even come close to living up to the $94 million max contract he signed with the Grizzlies in the summer of 2016. Knee injuries have limited Parsons to 70 games in his first two years. When on the court, Parsons hasn’t been quite the same player Grizzlies fans were expecting. Take a quick glance at the numbers and Parsons is averaging 7.1 points, 2.5 rebounds on average shooting numbers over his first two years with the Grizzlies.
Going into Year 3 with the team, Parsons pinned “A Note to Memphis” on the Players’ Tribune where he opens up about his first two years in Memphis and essentially asks for a fresh start. Although my colleague Darren Jeans disagrees with me, I think it’s time Memphis finally embraces Chandler Parsons.
In his Players’ Tribune article, Parsons talks about and apologizes for the mistakes he’s made over the past two seasons. He apologized for the injuries, lashing out at reporters when asked about his rehab progress or personal life and for seeming so distant when his heart has always been in Memphis. Parsons explained and opened up about how losing multiple seasons in a row sent him to a dark place where he became bitter and didn’t respond appropriately in certain situations.
Parsons was the best player on his team until he got to the NBA, where he was at least a solid role player until Memphis. Struggling isn’t something he’s used to. He’s apologized and is trying to fix things, and frankly it’s not like Memphis has welcomed Parsons with open arms.
Other than the few weeks following his signing, Memphis has done a pretty poor job at embracing Chandler Parsons. As soon as he missed the first few games of the 2016-2017 season, fans started turning on Chandler. Fans were furious when Parsons posted a picture of him at the All-Star break wheels up to Chancun. Late that season, fans started finding Parsons in public and harassing him with pathetic videos like the one below.
The following offseason Parsons spent a majority of the summer posting workout videos on Instagram, along with Q and A’s on Twitter to interact with his fans. That didn’t stop Parsons from being booed on the first game of last season just because he missed a free throw. So in my opinion, Parsons at least had reasons to be a jerk at times. I can understand why he would keep to himself, instead of opening himself up to Memphis.
On the basketball court, Parsons was quietly really good last year. His Per 36 numbers had him averaging 14.8 points a game, with 4.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists. He lead the team in three point percentage last year shooting 42%, a career high (minimum 8 games played, so some small sample size theater there). Injuries (and tanking) limited Parsons to just 36 games last year and that is the only statistic most fans see or seem to care about.
Parsons hasn’t and likely will not ever live up to his $94 million dollar contract, but it’s not about the money. Most fans forget that Mike Conley was meeting with the Dallas Mavericks when ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (at The Vertical at the time) reported that Parsons and the Grizzlies agreed to terms. If the Grizzlies don’t sign Parsons, Mike Conley may walk. You can’t blame Parsons for taking the money, and you need to at least understand why the Grizzlies front office would offer Parsons a max contract. The Portland Trail Blazers had already offered Parson’s at least near a max contract, so the Grizzlies had to do the same to sign the marquee free agent they needed to convince Conley to stay. For better or worse, the Grizzlies had to try and sign Parsons.
Parsons chose Memphis. He was the first big name free agent to ever choose to sign with the Grizzlies that didn’t start his career in Memphis. He chose to be here, and reiterates he wants to be here in his Tribune article. Memphis has embraced players with far worse issues than Parsons. Tony Allen punched teammate O.J. Mayo on a flight, Zach Randolph lived an insanely troubled past before coming to Memphis. Two of the cities greatest legends aren’t angels. Parsons’ biggest sin? Being hurt and responding to trolls on Twitter. The point is, Memphis has accepted players with bigger character issues.
The difference between Parsons’ and guys like TA and Z-Bo? TA and Z-Bo exceeded statistical expectations and more importantly, they hugged Memphis more than Parsons has. Parsons has done his fair share of community service, with stops at Le Bonheur, St. Jude, and the West Cancer Center among his public appearances. He hasn’t been Z-Bo or TA, but he’s been involved in this community.
Parsons knows he needs to show his promises from the Tribune article on the court, and that his words don’t mean much. If Parsons struggles on the court and reverts back to responding coldly to the fans and media, his Players’ Tribune article is just another disappointment. But for now, his article is the beginning of a fresh start for Parsons and Memphis.
He didn’t have to write the article, but he chose to. Just like how he chose to come to Memphis. He’s opened up more than he has the past two years. He’s said he’s felt the best he has in a long time and is ready to contribute. The saying always goes “if you hug Memphis, Memphis will hug you back”. Well Memphis, Parsons is here with his arms wide open, it’s time to hug him back.