Something about this year’s configuration of the Phoenix Suns just doesn’t agree with the Grizzlies—probably mostly Devin Booker—and after all of the “no, really, I do want to fight you but this much smaller person is inexplicably able to hold me back” of the last meeting between these two teams, the ersatz fisticuffs started early in last night’s rematch at FedExForum with this message in a bottle from Vince Carter:
when you think you're being slick and call your dad by his first namepic.twitter.com/tz5BLK0yoR— ☕netw3rk (@netw3rk) March 1, 2017
Needless to say, Vince’s elbow (though it may not have connected as intended) was not well received by Booker and his Phoenix teammates, and in the ensuing scrum Carter did enough that Monty McCutchen later explained to David Fizdale that he had to toss Carter even though he didn’t want to.
It worked out for the Grizzlies, though, even though it seemed as though maybe they’d miss Carter’s contributions in what was at the time a close game. After a listless few minutes, the ejection sparked the Griz to be more aggressive on the offensive end—and, indeed, to match the intensity with which the Suns were playing—and by the time the second half rolled around, the defense caught up, too, and the Griz opened up a big lead that they wouldn’t relinquish. That’s the recap. What did we learn from this first home game in forever? Chandler Parsons could call it a season and it probably wouldn’t hurt the Grizzlies much.
Other than causing a minor commotion by having some 19-year-old Instagram model attracting attention sitting courtside in a purple wig and some kind of fishnet bodysuit thing under a Griz jersey Parsons didn’t do much last night. In 23 minutes, he attempted 4 shots and made one, a three pointer. He seems terrified to shoot the ball—he had several opportunities to take slightly contested but still decent looks from long range, and on almost all of them he held the ball too long and passed it up, or pump faked trying to draw contact instead of just shooting the ball. He’s still not moving well, he’s never been a good defender and the Grizzlies just aren’t consistent enough on that end to always cover for him. If you watch closely, Marc Gasol only passes Parsons the ball when he’s doubled and Parsons is extremely open. He’s just not ready yet.
I know the minutes thing is a mandate, and that it’s part of his rehab process. I know that it’s entirely possible that in another couple weeks he’ll start to show more signs of life and at least return to being a slightly-above-average player. But right now, he’s not, and his 20 minutes a night are soaking up time that could be better used by James Ennis (who, let’s face it, has been better than Parsons all season long) and a shift in the rotation.
Two things stick out to me here. First, the Grizzlies should have learned after signing Vince Carter and Brandan Wright that signing guys Dallas let walk means they’re going to miss a whole year. Carter’s playing great now. Wright is a big deal for what the Grizzlies can do on offense. But neither of them was worth anything in the first years of their deals, and Parsons is continuing that tradition. Stop signing guys Dallas decides they don’t want anymore. This is the same as Chris Wallace’s “well this guy went to Kansas so he's gotta be good!” thing. Just quit.
Secondly, I just don’t think losing Parsons for the rest of the year makes the Grizzlies worse. How much better is he going to get by the playoffs if this is how slowly he’s progressing? Is Fizdale really going to roll into a playoff series starting Conley, Allen, Parsons, Green, and Gasol, which is essentially 3-on-5 on offense and 4-on-5 on defense? That seems like a great way to get served a Gentlemen’s Sweep (being bounced in five games) if they finish in 7th place. Or, they could shut him down, do something else, let him keep working out, lock him in some sort of fitness dungeon this summer where you can make sure he’s actually doing his conditioning work (which he clearly didn’t last summer, bum knee or no), and try again in 2017-18. That’s what I’d do at this point. Maybe he’ll work out so much he gets the summertime blues and makes my too-clever-by-half title pay off:
That was my main takeaway from last night. Seeing it in person after a long break melted away the optimism that was clouding my vision on Parsons. I still totally believe he can get healthy and be an above-average player for the Grizzlies. For the Grizzlies’ sake, I hope that’s the outcome. But it ain’t happening this year, and at this point in the season, coming down the stretch trying to solidify a solid playoff seed, I think they have to play their best players this year, not the guys with the biggest contracts.
The Grizzlies hung 130 points on Phoenix even given those limitations, but I think that’s more about how bad Phoenix is defensively than anything else. Without the Carter ejection it’s easy to see how this game could’ve evolved into another low-energy loss to a bad team through a lack of focus.