April 27th, 2017.
Chandler Parsons takes the floor.
He walks on to the hardwood of FedExForum alongside Mike Conley, Vince Carter, Zach Randolph, and Marc Gasol. There are 5.8 seconds left on the clock, and Memphis is down by two. No one expected the Memphis Grizzlies to be in this position - a six seed, in a position to push the Houston Rockets to a game 7 in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. Parsons has always felt slighted by the Rockets, a team that did not see him as worthy of a long-term investment.
His play in this series shows it.
He has flown around the court like a mad man, carrying on the tremendous campaign he had alongside the “Core Four” and company. He was not able to play in as many games as he would have liked, but 60 is better than none, and he averaged 18 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists per game across that stretch. Not bad for someone everyone thought was washed, who would not be able to play at the level his contract suggests he should. The Memphis faithful have been slow to accept him, and there are still some who are hesitant to buy in to this outsider who doesn’t seem to be one of them.
He carries that, and the knowledge that Head Coach David Fizdale drew up this final play for him, to the inbound line. The Grizzlies are not interested in overtime. They want the win, and they want the ball in the hands of their 6’10” with a ratchet sharpshooter with the game on the line.
Parsons passes in to Conley, then runs off two quick screens from Gasol and Randolph while Carter flashes as a decoy in the corner. The screens pick up just enough of Trevor Ariza, and Parsons gets a clean look. The entirety of Memphis holds its breath, watching the ball release from Chandler’s hand, headed towards destiny. Goat or hero. Hollywood villain or Memphis miracle maker.
He lets it go.
Game 7. Thanks to Chandler Parsons, Memphis and their Grizzlies have life.
In the place of that dream, there is a nightmare.
Never in anyone’s wildest dreams would things have gone this poorly. Parsons has scored 18 or more points once in 50 games across one and a half seasons as a member of the Memphis Grizzlies. He has never played more that 26 minutes in a single game for the Memphis Grizzlies. Over this time he has made over $35 million while not being able to be the multifaceted player he was signed to be. His knees have failed him, and their failure has crippled what was supposed to be the start of a new and exciting era of Grizzlies basketball.
According to Fizdale, it would be an era where Chandler was supposed to be used in a similar fashion to LeBron James, not in terms of talent but in terms of role in a more modern offense. It would be a time when Parsons was no longer going to be a bridesmaid among the NBA’s top players, viewed as an also-ran and not the star he wanted to be. Memphis was willing to take a chance on him, and for a little while, excitement permeated the fan base. Perhaps this, finally, would be the player on the perimeter this team had always wanted.
Until he wasn’t.
Goodness knows it isn’t his fault. His attempts at rehabilitation are well documented, as are his charity efforts in Memphis. He has put forth a massive amount of time and effort to try to stay healthy and invest in the community, and while that is of course part of his job, he deserves to be commended for the drive he continues to demonstrate. He doesn’t always make the best decisions off the floor (especially on social media), but Parsons the Memphis Grizzly has been a model employee when it comes to doing whatever it takes to try to get right and do right by Memphis.
It just hasn’t taken yet. And it may never take.
Images and scenes of him in fashionable street clothes or in workout gear rehabbing have become much more commonplace than him in Beale Street Blue on the floor for the Grizzlies. The hardest part is, as bad as 2016-2017 was for Parsons as a player, the worst of his career, this campaign started relatively well. He looked more spry, with more lift on his jumper and more pep in his step. Chandler still wasn’t quite what fans wanted him to be, but he was at least a functioning, skilled NBA player. That was enough...
Until it wasn’t.
Whether it’s because the season is lost, or because of legitimate health concerns, Parsons is yet again out for an extended period. While there have been recent updates indicating a Parsons return may be on the horizon, just how far off that day is exactly is still to be determined. When (if?) he does come back this season, he will surely be on a minutes restriction, and probably will not be a starter, and likely will not play at all in back to backs. Another season will come and go without us seeing that Chandler Parsons we hoped was coming to Memphis two years ago.
Two years. Two seasons. Half of a contract of a max player, lost.
It’s time to let go.
That doesn’t mean that Parsons can’t be what he was earlier this year, a perfectly fine NBA player who can make the Memphis Grizzlies better. Gone, however, is the hope that he can be THAT GUY. The dude with the ratchet who goes off on opposing teams to the tune of ten made threes. Flashes might appear from time to time, bringing us back to that day when the news broke that Chandler Parsons chose Memphis. Reminding us how much of a difference he could have made as a key piece to the last year of Grit and Grind, how he would have made the Grizzlies an offensive force.
Maybe David Fizdale would still be here.
Maybe players like Dillon Brooks wouldn’t have to play outside of their ideal role and could truly thrive on a good team.
On and on we could go in this fantasy, but the truth is the time for reality has arrived. Does that mean the stretch provision? Probably not. A trade? Not likely. Chandler Parsons is a Grizzly, for better or worse, and as he continues to work his hardest to come back he must be handled with care.
It isn’t what anyone wanted. Not Parsons, not the Grizzlies, not the fans. But making the most of what remains must be the priority. Otherwise, the resentment and frustration, fair or unfair, will only grow. Chandler doesn’t deserve that.
But the Grizzlies players, coaches, and their fans don’t either. Which makes their shared nightmare, and discarding the dream of two summers ago, that much harder to take.
April 10th, 2019.
Chandler Parsons takes the floor.
There are 5.8 seconds left in the first half of the regular season finale for the 32-49 Memphis Grizzlies. It will be their second straight season in the lottery, except this season they are not guaranteed to have their draft pick, as it was sent out to Boston years ago for another hopeful answer to the seemingly eternal Memphis question, Jeff Green. Memphis is at home playing the Philadelphia 76ers, who are gearing up for their first round playoff series and resting their stars. Parsons checks in for Dillon Brooks and is playing alongside Andrew Harrison, Wayne Selden Jr., Deyonta Davis, and 2018 Grizzlies 1st round pick Mikal Bridges.
Parsons plays almost exclusively at the 4 now. It has been a welcome move, considering the fact that Chandler has lost a step or two. It fits what now is his game - spot up shooter, pick and pop playmaker - and he has had a decent season in this role. He has actually played in 50 games, remarkable considering where he was the season before, but this is thanks in part to a 25 minutes per game restriction and a continued lack of playing in back to backs. 9 points, 3 assists, and 2 rebounds per game...better than the alternative. Chandler has done all he can to make it work in Memphis, but now fans count down the days until his cap number is no longer on the Grizzlies ledger.
Parsons passes the ball in to Harrison, and Head Coach J.B. Bickerstaff calls out a set for Parsons. He runs off of screens set by Davis and Bridges, as Selden flashes to the corner as a decoy. The screens pick up just enough of Justin Anderson, and Parsons gets a clean look. A half full FedExForum watches on, sighing as they see Parsons launch a three in a meaningless game, wondering what the Grizzlies will do as Marc Gasol potentially enters free agency and who Memphis may take if they somehow win the NBA lottery. Parsons’ contract has made him a goat, a villain he never deserved to be but one he’s become because of health and hardship outside of his control.
He lets it go.
A smattering of applause sprinkles down as Grizzlies fans look ahead to the next era, away from the one that might have been.