In the summer of 2016, Chandler Parsons signed a four-year, $96,438,523 free agent contract in order to join the Memphis Grizzlies.
Plagued by injuries and general ineffectiveness during his first season with the club, he played just 34 games, averaging 6.2 points on 33.8 percent shooting with 2.5 rebounds in 19.9 minutes.
In an effort to gradually ease him back into the swing of things, the Grizzlies have limited the 29 year old’s playing time so far this season. In five games played, he has averaged just 16.2 minutes, much to the dismay of Memphis’ fans who are growing impatient with their very expensive reserve.
He’s even getting booed by his home crowd, which has had a profound impact on him. “I’ll just go into every game with the mentality that it’s a road game, if that’s how it’s going to be,” he told Geoff Calkins of the Memphis Commercial Appeal. “They can boo me, they can sarcastically cheer me, they can do whatever they want… It’s tasteless, man, it makes no sense. We’re athletes, we’re human beings. I don’t know them personally, so, it’s just a little strange to me, but that’s sports.”
Grizzlies head coach David Fizdale has recently put Jarell Martin, James Ennis III and Andrew Harrison in the starting five along with Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, opting to play rookie Dillon Brooks, Tyreke Evans and Mario Chalmers big minutes off the bench. Parsons has yet to play 20 minutes in a single game this season, but if his last performance is a sign of things to come, the Grizzlies could be very dangerous if he can repeat his output.
On Saturday, in Memphis’ second victory over the Houston Rockets this season, Parsons dropped 24 points on 9-of-11 shooting, including 6-of-8 from three-point range in just 19 minutes. Not only did the Grizzlies play their typical tough defense against James Harden and company, but due in large part to Parsons’ huge performance, they outgunned perhaps the best offensive team in the entire NBA.
"That was awesome. I've been waiting on tonight for a really long time," Parsons said after the game, per Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal. “It's all about confidence with me. I felt like everything I threw up there was going to go in.”
His teammates were also very happy for him.
“Tonight was just a night that we finally got to see Chandler,” Conley explained. “He could finally be himself, be happy, be animated and just have the energy that we know he is capable of playing with. Will he do it every night? Who knows. But we will definitely take it.”
“I think he took my water. I think we changed bottled waters," Gasol joked. “I’m really happy for him. I’m really happy that the fans got behind him. I’m happy that he got to see the ball go in a few times in a row. He felt great out there. You could see that he would break plays and chase the ball. But I am excited that he is feeling good. That is important for us. The happiest thing for me was that he helped us win.”
His coach seemed to be relieved.
“I’m happy for him. He’s gone through a really difficult time,” Fizdale said. “Obviously just trying to get his way back to the court. This was his moment. I think he deserved it, from putting in a lot of hours to make sure that he can play for us and help us win.”
While Memphis will likely continue to slowly ramp up Parsons’ minutes as the season rolls along, if he can return to the form that he showed earlier in his career, he could emerge as the team’s x-factor and re-gain the trust and respect of Grizzlies fans everywhere. At 5-1, Memphis is off to a hot start, and he has played a minimal role except for the one huge performance.
Therefore, if he can eventually get things right and make an impact on offense in extended minutes, Memphis could emerge as a surprising contender in the stacked Western Conference.