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NBA AM: Chandler Parsons Talks Free Agency, Memphis, Acting

Chandler Parsons on free agency, early impression of Memphis, recruiting for the Grizzlies, acting and more.

Alex Kennedy

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One of the moves that turned heads over the offseason was the Memphis Grizzlies’ addition of unrestricted free agent Chandler Parsons. Memphis signed the 28-year-old forward to a four-year, $94.8 million maximum deal in an effort to find another offensive weapon and someone who can stretch the floor since he shot 41.1 percent from three-point range last season.

Entering this season, Parsons had career averages of 14.3 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3 assists from his stints with the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks. With Memphis’ core returning and Parsons joining the mix, the Grizzlies hoped to once again make noise in the Western Conference. They have made the playoffs in six straight seasons, advancing as far as the Western Conference Finals in 2012-13.

However, injuries have limited the team a bit so far this season. Parsons has played in just six games thus far. Initially, he started the season on the sideline because was recovering from offseason surgery to correct a torn meniscus in his right knee. Then, once he made his return, he suffered a bone bruise in his left knee and has been out since (but he will be re-evaluated this week). In addition to Parsons’ injury, Mike Conley is out indefinitely as he recovers from a fracture in his vertebrae. Despite these setbacks, the resilient Grizzlies are still in the West’s sixth seed with an 11-8 record.

Basketball Insiders recently caught up with Parsons to discuss his decision to join the Grizzlies, what it’s like getting acclimated to a new NBA team, his first impression of Memphis and how good this team can be when they’re at full strength.

We also talked to Parsons about his involvement in a new television show called “The 5th Quarter” on go90. The show is a comedy – think of a spoof of the 30 for 30 documentaries – and it features many different professional athletes.

“We were excited to work with Chandler because off the court, he is seen as a pretty boy in the league – always doing the modeling shoots, at fashion week and so on,” Michael D. Ratner, who co-created the show while also directing eight episodes and serving as showrunner, told Basketball Insiders. “No one knows he’s actually got some comedy chops. But they will now. While basketball fans will recognize many familiar faces throughout the season of The 5th Quarter, this is a show that offers something to a much bigger audience. This will be a way sports can finally be enjoyed by everyone, as you don’t need to know what happens on the field or the court to appreciate Blake Griffin blocking a 7-year-old’s shot or Chandler Parsons giving commentary on Metta World Peace changing his name.”

Here is our one-on-one Q&A with Parsons:

Basketball Insiders: First of all, let’s talk about “The 5th Quarter” since that your episode with Metta World Peace just premiered. What drew you to this project and how did this all come together?

Chandler Parsons: “Basically my relationship with Michael [D. Ratner] is kind of how it all transpired. I’m very outgoing, very personable, and getting to know Michael and all the guys, I knew that it was going to be hilarious. I knew that it was going to be awesome. It’s got some really cool, interesting and funny people in on it. It was just right up my alley to do something like this and kind of show a side of my personality that you can’t exactly show in other things I’ve done. Michael does a great job giving me the platform to showcase that and do other things that I’m interested in off the court, which is stuff like this that’s going to be extremely funny.”

BI: You’re in a few different episodes; can you kind of give me a summary of what you do on the show?

Parsons: “Yeah, there’s a couple really funny ones. I did one with Metta World Peace, and obviously Metta World Peace is known as a tough guy in the NBA. In that one, I’m being told by this little kid [who is tormenting Metta] that I need to basically have an altercation with Metta World Peace. And there’s a hilarious one about ugly players in the NBA and I’m basically putting off this persona that I’m so handsome and better looking than everyone else that this really hideous [former] player really did nothing for me ‘cause I don’t know how to relate to how ugly this guy was or what it’s like being ugly. That was part of my favorite clip that we did. I have a little cameo in the Mark Cuban one too, and obviously my relationship with him makes that even funnier. It’s just a lot of cool ideas we were able put together and do with some cool people.”

BI: Is acting in general something you could see yourself doing more of down the road?

Parsons: “Yeah, for sure. Definitely if it’s something like this where I’m able to be myself and be funny and be comfortable with people like Michael. I think that’s definitely something I would pursue after [my basketball career] and even now while I’m still playing to kind of set that foundation to be able to get involved in things like this. The more stuff I do like this, the more comfortable I’ll be and, I think, the better it will go.”

BI: How cool is it to have basketball open all these doors for you? You have this, you’ve had modeling gigs – so many different avenues that have kind of been opened because of basketball. How exciting is that?

Parsons: “It’s awesome. Obviously, I understand that basketball comes first and without me being successful on the court, all these opportunities wouldn’t be coming and I wouldn’t have nearly the success that I do off the court [or] the opportunity to do all this cool stuff. So it’s crazy what the game can bring you and what it’s brought me and the relationships that I’ve made throughout the years, all the cool people I’ve gotten to meet and work with. Obviously that wouldn’t have happened without basketball, so I’m very grateful and just continue to work extremely hard and just keep trying to take advantage of every little opportunity.”

BI: Focusing on on-court stuff, what’s been your early impression of Memphis and the organization?

Parsons: “It’s been very fun. It’s definitely a culture shock to me, moving to Memphis, Tennessee. I live in L.A. in the offseason and I’m from Orlando, but as far as the city, I’m loving it. I love the culture there, I love the people there and the fans are unbelievable. The real reason why I went there was the current players that they have on their team, guys like Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, Z-Bo, Tony Allen. See, they’re all guys that have had so much success, and I felt like plugging me into that lineup, being able to play with those guys as kind of the piece they’ve been missing [would be great]. And with the new coaching staff with [David] Fizdale and J.B. Bickerstaff, those are two guys I’ve had previous relationships with and I just hit it off with them. Those are guys that I’ve trusted, and I think we’re going to have special seasons as soon as we get fully healthy. We’ve got a lot of guys banged up right now, but I think we’re going to be a tough team to beat come playoff time.”

BI: Memphis is always one of those teams that no one wants to face, but do you guys feel you’re being underrated a bit? It seems like when people talk about contenders in the West, everyone just talks about the Warriors, Spurs and Clippers. Do you guys feel like maybe you’re being underrated a bit just because you haven’t gotten to full strength yet?

Parsons: “Maybe a little bit, but there are just so many good teams in the West. You got to look at the Warriors, who obviously got better adding KD. The Spurs are very good. A team like Portland with a guy like Damian Lillard, who is playing out of his mind. Russ [Westbrook] is playing out of his mind in OKC. There are such good teams that, yeah, maybe teams aren’t talking about us as much right now and we didn’t get off to the hottest start. The Clippers [started] 10-1. There’s just so many good teams out there right now that are playing well. I think we’re just starting to scratch the surface. Like I said, health is our biggest issue. We have an unbelievable team and an unbelievably experienced coaching staff and, if we’re healthy, it’s going to be hard for a team to beat us four times in a playoff series.”

BI: You’ve gotten acclimated to a few different cities now: Houston, Dallas and Memphis. What’s the key to getting acclimated to a team and a city? What’s that process like?

Parsons: “It’s different; it’s kind of like moving schools when you’re a kid. You’re the new kid in school, you’ve got to adjust. First off, you have to find a place to live. You have to move all your stuff to the new city. You have to develop all these new relationships with people that you’re going to work with that you really don’t know. You’ve got to start developing that chemistry on the court with your teammates and your coaching staff. It’s different, it’s a huge challenge. I’ve obviously gone through it once before with the move from Houston to Dallas, and it’s always exciting – change is always a good thing. But the guys here in Memphis have made the adjustment much easier. These are great guys, unselfish guys, who truly just care about winning. They understand that when I’m healthy, I’m going to help them win a lot of games. So I think it’s just a mutual respect, the relationship that we have. It’s a great working relationship.”

BI: You’ve gained the reputation as one of the best recruiters in the NBA. You’re very good at connecting with guys and pitching them. I think your charisma and ability to be friends with guys obviously helps a lot. Do you want to continue to be a free-agent recruiter in Memphis?

Parsons: “Yeah, for sure. I think how we play on the court speaks volumes, and I think that shows players and future free agents what it would be like to play here. Obviously me having a relationship with guys that are going be up, being able to talk to them and kind of convincing them to come to play with me is something that I’m very good at, something I’m comfortable doing. But I think the more success that we have on the court, the more guys will watch us and see how much fun we have. The deeper the run we make, [the better]. That’s where you really start getting respect and players considering coming.”

BI: The continuity in Memphis is pretty amazing. You don’t usually see a team’s core stay together for this long. When you see the continuity and the chemistry, how huge is that for a team to have so many guys that have been together so many years?

Parsons: “Yeah, it’s awesome. Like I said, these guys have been together for a long time, so it’s different in the beginning kind of being the odd man out and getting used to it. But they’ve made me feel extremely comfortable from day one. Even coming off of injury, coming off of surgery, I’ve played against these guys now for five years and they know what I can do and they’re telling me not to rush back, that they need me for the long run. So they’ve been very welcoming, and the culture that they’ve developed here is something that I’ve always really, really respected. When I got a chance to possibly join that, I wasn’t going to turn that opportunity down.”

Alex Kennedy is the Managing Editor of Basketball Insiders and this is his 10th season covering the NBA. He is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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Update: Eric Bledsoe Trade Talks

Michael Scotto updates the ongoing Eric Bledsoe trade saga.

Michael Scotto

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The sun has set on the 2017-18 season for Phoenix three games into the year.

The Suns fired head coach Earl Watson and promoted Jay Triano as the team’s interim head coach, as ESPN first reported. The Suns suffered an embarrassing 124-76 loss in the home opener against the Portland Trail Blazers. The final straw came during a 130-88 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on the road to drop the team to 0-3.

Then things went from bad to worse rapidly after a tweet from guard Eric Bledsoe.

General manager Ryan McDonough spoke with Bledsoe. Bledsoe told McDonough he was at a hair salon with a girl and the tweet wasn’t related to the Suns. McDonough didn’t believe that to be true and said the 27-year-old guard “won’t be with us going forward.”

Bledsoe spoke with McDonough and owner Robert Sarver privately several weeks ago. During that conversation the desire for a change was expressed, a league source told Basketball Insiders.

Since then, Phoenix has discussed trades involving Bledsoe around the league, sources told Basketball Insiders. In addition, Tyson Chandler has continued to be shopped by the Suns during that time.

Trade talks have rapidly picked up since Bledsoe’s desire to be traded was made public.

The Suns and Denver Nuggets have discussed a trade of Eric Bledsoe for Emmanuel Mudiay and other pieces, league sources told Basketball Insiders.

Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried has emerged as part of the trade package with Mudiay, league sources told Basketball Insiders.

Denver has shopped Faried for years. The 27-year-old forward is owed $12.9 million this season and $13.7 million next season. Mudiay is owed $3.4 million this season and $4.3 million next season. Mudiay will then become a restricted free agent if given a qualifying offer in the summer of 2019. For more information on Denver’s salary cap situation, click here.

The Suns also spoke to the New York Knicks and asked for No. 8 overall pick Frank Ntilikina and Willy Hernangomez in exchange for Bledsoe. The Knicks are not interested in that package, however.

Kyle O’Quinn is a candidate to be traded. Several teams have called the Knicks expressing interest in O’Quinn. New York wants to retain Hernangomez for the foreseeable future despite a lack of playing time early in the season. It’s also worth noting Hernangomez is a close friend of Kristaps Porzingis. Ntilikina is currently the point guard of the future in New York.

In addition, New York would need to add a salary filler to make the trade work financially. For more information on New York’s salary cap situation, click here.

The Milwaukee Bucks have also expressed interest in trading for Bledsoe, according to the New York Times. The Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers also have interest in Bledsoe, according to Amico Hoops.

Bledsoe is owed $14.5 million this season and $15 million next season before entering unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2018.

Bledsoe has averaged 18.8 points, 6.0 assists, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.6 steals per game with Phoenix. In addition, Bledsoe shot 45 percent from the field, 34 percent from downtown, and 81 percent from the foul line.

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NBA PM: Greek Freak Off to an MVP-Caliber Start

Giannis Antetokounmpo is the Bucks’ MVP and looks primed to be in the actual MVP race this season.

James Blancarte

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The NBA season is officially underway. Although each team has only played a few games so far, it has helped illuminate where many teams and players are in their development. For example, last night’s game in Oklahoma City gave a glimpse into how the Thunder will handle a late-game situation now that the team has three previous number one options. In the final minute, Russell Westbrook scored two of the Thunder’s last three baskets and assisted Carmelo Anthony on the final basket just before Andrew Wiggins hit a game-winning buzzer beater from well beyond the arc.

After three games, Giannis Antetokounmpo’s individual development has been one of the most exciting storylines to follow. A number of positive and far-reaching questions can be asked of Giannis. What is the ceiling for him? Can a player of his considerable talents continue to improve after winning Most Improved Player last season? Remember, Giannis was drafted in 2013 and is still only 22 years old.

When told in August that although he could win most valuable player, he could not also win most improved player as well, he responded with a simple, yet telling response.

“Why not?” Antetokounmpo responded.

While he continued to be lighthearted and moved on to the next topic, it’s fair to ask, “why not?” when it comes to Giannis. Through three regular season games, he is averaging 38.3 points, five assists, 9.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. These averages will likely regress to more sustainable numbers as the season continues. For now, however, his averages are in elite territory. In addition, his ability to impact the game is already getting to the point where LeBron James may be the only other player who can similarly fill up the stat lines while physically terrorizing opponents on both the offensive and defensive end of the court.

When asked who the “biggest freak in the NBA” is, Giannis elaborated that it was James due to his ability to impose himself on the game.

“The things [James] does, the veteran leadership he brings to the team, how big he is, how quick, how strong,” Giannis stated. “And at the end of the day, how smart he is. He can put his team in the right spots, make the right decision.”

In Saturday night’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers, Giannis willed his team to victory. It was Giannis demonstrating how big, strong and smart he was, putting his team on his shoulders and carrying them to an impressive win.
With less than a minute left in a close game, Giannis closed in with a well-timed double team on Damian Lillard and came away with a clean steal. The steal got the Bucks the ball back and Giannis was fouled, which put him on the free throw line. Unfortunately, he came up short on both attempts and the Bucks remained a point behind.

Despite missing the free throws, Giannis came up huge on the very next play. Giannis took on C.J McCollum one-on-one at the top of the key and created yet another steal. He then leaked out to receive the pass for a breakaway dunk that quickly gave the Bucks the lead with 11.4 seconds remaining.

On the next play, when Jusuf Nurkic set a high screen and roll, he received the pass on the roll and headed to the basket. Giannis’ primary responsibility was the shooter in the corner and yet he read the action correctly and was ready and waiting at the rim for Nurkic. Giannis times Nurkic’s shot perfectly and rejected him at the rim, which effectively ended the game in favor of the Bucks.

Giannis’ ability as defensive Swiss Army Knife was instrumental in the Bucks’ close win over Portland. In addition, Giannis has also made further improvements in an area of his that has received a lot of attention over the years. He continues to shoot a below average three-point percentage for his career (27.6) and has had a rocky start to this season as well (16.7). It’s likely that Giannis’ three-point shooting will be a significant limitation in his game for the foreseeable future. However, over his career, Giannis has shown an ability to improve his shooting percentage on two-point shots consistently, especially shots from 0-3 feet and 3-10 feet, per basketball-reference. As Giannis has gotten stronger and more explosive, he has developed a strong desire to attack opponents off the dribble and absorb contact at the rim. Whether he blows by his opponent outright or scores through opponents at the rim, Giannis has developed into an offensive force that few players in the league could hope to slow down.

In addition to his scoring, Giannis continues to display his unique ability to handle the ball in transitions and run the Bucks’ offense in the half court as a point forward. This sort of ability separates Giannis from the other elite wings in the league who don’t have the skill or vision to act as a primary playmaker. Giannis is doing much of what he did last year, but seems more aggressive and physically dominant through the first three games of this season. That sort of improvement of course puts Giannis in the MVP discussion (though it is incredibly early in the season to even start this sort of discussion).

Giannis was recently asked about his ability to win the MVP and wasn’t shy about his desire to win the prestigious award.

“I’m going to be one of the players that hopefully dominates the game. But I’ve got to still make sure that my team wins, that my teammates get better,” Giannis stated. “I’ve set the goal since the last game against Toronto last year, at the playoffs. I want to be the MVP this year.”

What helps solidify Giannis’ ability to be such a strong MVP candidate is also what makes his team less dangerous. The Bucks are woefully dependent on their star and, at least for now, lack the necessary depth to be a true contender in the East.

Through three regular season games, it’s clear that the Bucks will only go as far as Giannis can take them. And that is the key to Giannis’ budding MVP campaign. Let’s take a look at last year’s top five MVP candidates. Last year’s winner, Westbrook, has two new star-caliber players (Paul George and Carmelo Anthony) to share the spotlight, and the ball, with. James Harden is sharing the ball with Chris Paul, who is currently struggling with a knee injury. LeBron James and the Cavaliers are almost exclusively concerned with the postseason. Kawhi Leonard is similarly crucial to the San Antonio Spurs on offense and defense but has lingering health concerns and has yet to play this season. Finally, Isaiah Thomas is coming off a major hip injury and is not projected to play until January.

With so much uncertainty, Giannis has the opportunity to continue to draw attention as not only the most important player on the Bucks but perhaps the most valuable player in the league. Giannis’ early play this season indicates that this is possible. Despite his early-season outburst, Giannis is giving deference to LeBron James — though he admits he hopes to reach James’ level at some point in the future.

“Definitely [James is] the best player in the NBA. For a few years to come,” Giannis stated. “But I think a lot of players are getting better. Even myself. And hopefully one day we can get to that spot from him.”

Perhaps Giannis will take the spot as the best player in the NBA as early as this season. Considering how dominant he has been so far this season, it’s fair to ask “why not?”

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Wright Primed To Take Next Step With Raptors

Third year Utah alum Delon Wright is showing flashes of what he can do in an expanded role for Toronto.

Spencer Davies

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Backup point guards are essential to a team’s success.

They’re the floor generals of the second unit. They create for themselves to score. They collapse defenses in order for the others to get opportunities.

In some cases, these players perform so well that they outgrow the role they provide and force their way into the starting five—on that same team or elsewhere. Just look at past examples: Darren Collison, Eric Bledsoe, Reggie Jackson, Dennis Schroder, etc. The list goes on.

Kyle Lowry was 20 years old when he was drafted late in the first round of the 2006 NBA Draft by the Memphis Grizzlies. He studied the position behind veteran guards Chucky Atkins and Damon “Mighty Mouse” Stoudamire.

But even after showing promise in his rookie season, management decided to take Mike Conley Jr. the very next year. Though the two were about even in playing time, it was clear the Grizzlies favored youth over anything else, so in 2009, Lowry was dealt with the Houston Rockets in a three-way trade at the deadline.

At this point, Lowry had started in only 30 games over two-and-a-half seasons, so the keys to the car weren’t ready for him just yet. Aaron Brooks was a unique talent that Rick Adelman loved to throw out there along with Tracy McGrady and Kevin Martin.

Brooks started all 82 games in the 2009-10 campaign and blossomed into a scoring machine. He was shooting the lights out that year, and because of that, it was tough to sit him. Lowry still took advantage of his playing time, though, with plenty of floor run. He averaged nearly 14 points and seven assists per 36 minutes.

To the misfortune of his teammate and the advantage to Lowry the next season, Brooks struggled mightily with the jump shot that made him so deadly. After 34 games, the Rockets moved him in a deal to Phoenix for Goran Dragic and a first-round pick. Dragic was on his way to carving his niche in the league, but it opened up a door for Lowry to really take hold as “quarterback” of the team.

Circumstances arose once again, however. Houston had let go of Adelman and hired Kevin McHale in June 2011. Lowry and his new head coach did not have the same rapport. He unfortunately suffered from a bacterial infection and missed out on the beginning of the season, and towards the end, the emergence of Dragic led to his demise.

That summer, the Rockets sent Lowry to the Toronto Raptors for Gary Forbes and a future first-rounder. Once again, it was a fresh start for him, but also a brand new team with a different head coach.

It didn’t take long for the man to realize his true potential there. Aside from shuffling a bit with Jose Calderon as the starter in Toronto, Lowry found a home. The jump he made between that season and the next one was impressive.

Lowry got paid after that 2013-14 season and re-signed with the Raptors for four years. He earned three All-Star appearances and—aside from the postseason disappointments—led the team to new heights with his fellow All-Star backcourt partner DeMar DeRozan.

Toronto and its star point guard agreed to a three-year, $100 million deal over the summer to keep him running the show and to honor that contract well as he has always had. But now there’s somebody behind Lowry waiting to break out, and could very well be the one who gets the torch passed to him.

Delon Wright is ready to make his mark. When he entered the league, he was a reserve behind Cory Joseph and had to observe and soak in the experience of NBA life. For some rookies, they get the chance immediately, and for the others, they have to wait their turn. In this case, it was the latter.

Playing the waiting game ended up working out well for him. In the offseason, the Raptors went out and traded Joseph for C.J. Miles due to the loss of DeMarre Carroll. It was a move that not only addressed a need for depth at the wing but also opened a door for Wright.

So here we are, two games in. The Raptors are 2-0 and have outscored their opponents by 51 points. In those combined, Wright has received 55 minutes of playing time.

Despite the competition being the rebuilding Chicago Bulls and a Philadelphia 76ers team trying to find an identity, he looks extremely comfortable. You don’t want to take too much out a sample size as small as that, but neither the numbers nor the eye test lies.

Wright has played the third-most minutes on the team thus far. He’s done a great job on both sides of the floor but has truly made a difference on the defensive end. As of now, the Raptors are only allowing 83 points per 100 possessions with him on the hardwood. When he’s not, that number blows up to 98.9 using the same scale.

Offensively he’s almost been just as good. Wright has been aggressive as a facilitator and as a shooter, putting up 13- and 14-point games early on. He dished out five assists in the season opener and nabbed five rebounds in the second game. He has a higher offensive rating than both Lowry and DeRozan.

According to NBA.com, Toronto’s net rating with him off the court (12.9) is the second lowest to his lifelong teammate Jakob Poeltl (12.8). Take it with a grain of salt because it’s one week into the season, but Wright has the best net rating in the league (37.6) among those playing at least 25 minutes per game.

Call it garbage time play or whatever you want: He has the tools to succeed. The stature is there. The intangibles are evident. It’s all about putting it together over the course of an entire season.

If the trend continues, there’s no way Casey can keep him off the floor for long. We don’t know where Wright’s career could go. It’s way too early to tell. The Raptors are likely hoping for him to be the successor after this era of basketball has come and gone.

Lowry is the man in Toronto, as is DeRozan. Nothing is changing that anytime soon. But rest assured, Wright’s primed to take a big step this year and it’s going to be fun to watch.

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