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

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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.”

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About Alex Kennedy

Alex Kennedy

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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