The Memphis Grizzlies may have ground out a season-opening 103-91 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on their home floor, but $94 million small forward Chandler Parsons — recently relegated to come off the bench — was peppered with boos during his most recent lackluster performance.
The few ovations he received occurred after he made his only free throw out of five total attempts.
Chandler Parsons says if the fans are gonna boo than he’ll treat every game like a road game. pic.twitter.com/F959M9ghNh
— Devin Walker (@Devin_Walker5) October 19, 2017
“They can boo me, they can sarcastically cheer me, they can do whatever they want. … It’s tasteless, man, it makes no sense,” Parsons said afterwards, via The Commercial Appeal’s Geoff Calkins. “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.”
Contrast the crowd’s frustration with their adulation for former Grizzlies wing Tony Allen, who played 11 minutes off the bench for the Pelicans, and things are heading south for Parsons in Memphis.
“It is what it is, man. 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,” Parsons added in his postgame interview with reporters. “I know how hard I worked this summer. My teammates know how hard I worked this summer. So, I’m just focused on things I can control. I’m here to play basketball and help this team out any way I can, so it is what it is.”
Things boiled over Wednesday night, but this sentiment towards Parsons has been festering for more than a year. Since the Grizzlies poached him from Dallas for a four-year, $94 million max contract last summer, Parsons’ Memphis tenure has been one disappointment after another. After playing on a fringe All-Star level for the Mavericks, he averaged career lows in points, assists, rebounds and field goal percentage while struggling to regain his quickness or elevation due to chronic knee problems.
Much of Parsons’ poor performance has been for reasons beyond his control. In September 2015, he underwent microfracture surgery on his right knee. Six months later, he tore the meniscus in the same knee. Parsons’ rehab stretched into November 2016, before he was sidelined by a bone bruise in his left knee not long afterwards, followed by a separate meniscus tear in that knee about 30 games later.
“I’m not happy with (the booing) at all,” Gasol told Calkins. “It’s our players, we’ve got to support our players. Every single one of them. … Booing Chandler is just booing Mike or booing myself. We are one team and I don’t know what’s going through people’s minds but we need to support him.”
“The fans got to give him a break, man,” added Conley. “He’s working. I hate to see the boos so early on, that affects him, he’s our teammate and we ride for him, so, you know, he’s with us and he’s doing great.”
"We got to support our players"
— FOX Sports Grizzlies (@GrizzliesOnFSSE) October 19, 2017
Apparently, there is no middle ground with Parsons. You either love him or hate him. It’s not the first or second time an entire fanbase has grown hostile towards him. Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and their respective franchises parted with Parsons on bad terms. But at least Houston and Dallas waited until he was playing in a new address to behave like jilted exes.
After years scouring the NBA’s depths for a starting wing to complement Gasol, Conley, Allen and Zach Randolph, the Grizzlies splurged on Parsons, and their faithful expected him to propel Memphis into a higher stratosphere. However, Parsons’ injury issues, declining skills and exorbitant contract, coupled with his Instagram activity and affinity for dating celebrities, has turned him into a lightning rod.
The title window is closing, and the realization is settling in that Memphis will be saddled with Parsons’ $23 million salary until Gasol reaches his mid-30s and for 80 percent of Conley’s deal. Yet, fans are taking their anger out on the wrong figure. Parsons is a pawn in the grand scheme. The same front office that paid him when the Mavs would not has also waived two first-round picks since 2014.
As ugly as things appear to be, this might be rock bottom, and things can only get better from there.