Chandler Parsons to undergo knee surgery, ending a brutal first season in Memphis

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<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/players/4920/" data-ylk="slk:Chandler Parsons">Chandler Parsons</a>’ disappointing first season in Memphis may be over. (AP)
Chandler Parsons’ disappointing first season in Memphis may be over. (AP)

The curtain has finally fallen on Chandler Parsons’ disappointing first year with the Memphis Grizzlies.

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The team announced Sunday that the 28-year-old forward will “undergo a meniscectomy to repair a partial tear of the medial meniscus in his left knee” on Monday, a procedure that the Grizz expect to keep Parsons on the sidelines for the rest of the 2016-17 season, playoffs included.

It’s news that everybody observing the Grizzlies’ situation had expected for a week, after rumblings started an hour before the scheduled tip of the team’s matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks in Tennessee last Monday night:




The Grizzlies confirmed just 10 minutes later that Parsons had been put back on the shelf after being “diagnosed with a partial tear of the meniscus in his left knee” — which is not the knee on which he’d had operations in each of the past two years — and that the 28-year-old forward would “be out indefinitely as the team fully evaluates the appropriate course of action.”

“To suffer a setback like this after working so diligently to rebound from the injury to his right knee is obviously tough. That said, we know he will continue to work tirelessly to return to the court with his teammates and contribute,” General Manager Chris Wallace said. “Chandler has the full support of myself, Coach [David Fizdale] and the entire team and we are all focused on getting him healthy.”

Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com reported that the course of action would likely be season-ending surgery. Parsons will have that surgery Monday, bringing an early end to a woeful first season in Memphis for the former Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks swingman.

When they gave him a four-year, $94 million maximum-salaried contract in free agency, the Grizzlies hoped Parsons would provide a long-distance shooting and perimeter-playmaking complement to the inside-outside tandem of Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, giving them the kind of wing creator they’d long lacked and a versatile frontcourt facilitator capable of jolting Memphis’ long-staid offense into the 21st century. But Parsons was just never able to get fully healthy, missing the first six games of the season as he continued to rehabilitate his surgically repaired right knee before returning under a minutes restriction, playing six games … and promptly going back on the injured list with a bone bruise in his left knee. At the time he went down, the contusion was supposed to keep Parsons out for two weeks; instead, he missed more than a month.

Upon his late December return, Parsons looked rigid and rickety, plainly unable to generate any explosion off the dribble or lift on his jumper. Parsons, his teammates and his coaches preached patience, believing that time and repetition would knock off the rust and that, by the end of the regular season, he’d resemble the dynamic playmaker who’d averaged 16.5 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.3 assists in 33.5 minutes per game for Dallas between Christmas 2015 and St. Patrick’s Day 2016, shooting 50.7 percent from the field and 44.1 percent from 3-point land during that stretch before suffering a season-ending tear the meniscus in his right knee.

The turn never came. Parsons averaged just 6.2 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 19.9 minutes per game for Memphis in 34 appearances during his first year in Beale Street blue, shooting a dismal 33.8 percent from the field and 26.9 percent from long distance. Every off-target jumper, and every tweet and Instagram post, made the target on Parsons’ back a little bigger and brighter.

In recent weeks, Grizzlies fans began raining down boos on the high-priced import. Parsons said he found that “a little shocking,” but also said he had to admit he understood where fans were coming from because, “I suck right now. There’s no sugarcoating it. It is what it is.”

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Despite Parsons’ poor play — and despite Memphis being about five points per 100 possessions better this season with Parsons off the court than when he’s been on it — Fizdale refused to take Parsons out of the starting lineup. Instead, he decided to shuffle Tony Allen and JaMychal Green to the bench when he was searching for something to spark a team that had become somewhat lifeless (and very permissive on the defensive end) since the start of the new year, and to double down on that approach even after poor early returns because he had to “continue to try to grow [Parsons’] game with Marc and Mike.”

After one last disappointing Parsons performance — five points on 2-for-7 shooting in 23 minutes in a loss to the Atlanta Hawks — circumstances conspired to take that growth opportunity away from Fizdale. And while it might be unfair to Parsons to suggest a correlation here, it’s worth noting that the Grizzlies have followed Parsons’ removal from the lineup with four straight wins, including an impressive Saturday night victory over the San Antonio Spurs.

Memphis hammered the Bucks, Chicago Bulls, Atlanta Hawks and Spurs by 10.6 points per 100 possessions without Parsons last week, with the new/old starting lineup of Conley, Gasol, Allen, Green and Vince Carter outscoring the opposition by 39 points in 70 minutes of floor time during that four-game stretch. The Grizz now sit at 40-30, one game behind the wobbling Los Angeles Clippers for fifth place in the West and a half-game behind the Oklahoma City Thunder for sixth.

How far a Grizzlies team that’s still in line for an opening-round matchup against the Spurs can go remains to be seen, but Memphis’ recent form suggests that — for now, at least — shifting focus away from integrating Parsons and back to the basics (playing through Gasol and Conley while the steadier wing presence of Carter melds with the defensive activity of Allen and Green) represents the path of least resistance for getting this particular collection of Grizzlies into a postseason groove.

“You’ve got to get into a flow. Like, if you look at Memphis last night, I thought they were great,” Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said Sunday, according to Michael Wright of ESPN. “They were together. They’ve got all their guys. They executed really well on both ends of the court. That’s what you’re gonna get for playoff time. They look like they’re ready to go.”

Come season’s end, Fizdale, Wallace and company will have to go back to the drawing board to figure out how to get next year’s squad ready to go with Parsons back in the fold — provided, of course, that an offseason of recovery is what the doctor ordered for Parsons’ knees to stop aching and for him to start returning on Memphis’ significant investment.

“Look, I signed a four-year deal,” Parsons told ESPN’s MacMahon earlier this month. ” I didn’t sign a one-year deal. The team expectations for me are to go very slow. It’s going to be a long process.”

After what’s transpired over the last five months, there’s nowhere for that process to go but up. Or so player and team hope, anyway.

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Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don’t Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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