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MikeCheck: Grizzlies forward Parsons building foundation of strength for bounce-back season

By Michael Wallace
Grind City Media

MEMPHIS – The real punches won’t land for another month.

“Right now, it’s just conditioning and training,” Chandler Parsons explained through a wide grin on Wednesday. “If I got in there and really started sparring now, I’d probably get knocked out.”

Among the many regimens Parsons has endured in recent months to recover from a third knee surgery and whip his body back into condition has been a boxing workout. The Grizzlies’ forward enters the ring about three times a week in Los Angeles and laces up the trunks and gloves.

Don’t expect to see the 6-10, 230-pound heavyweight in the ring on the Mayweather-McGregor undercard anytime soon. But if things continue to progress on schedule, Parsons will be in shape and ready to go with no limitations when the Grizzlies open training camp in late September for the 2017-18 season.

Back in Memphis this week to host two days of camps and clinics in partnership with FedEx and Memphis Athletic Ministries, Parsons also confirmed he has completed post-surgery rehab from season-ending knee surgery in March and expects to be an impact player for the Grizzlies next season.

“There’s always pressure,” Parsons said moments before his surprise visit to nearly 100 campers at a local MAM gym. “I looked at last year as a huge failure, and I have never had a failure like that in my career so far. So I look at it like I set myself up for (the NBA’s) Most Improved (award) next year.”

Parsons, 28, is looking to bounce back from a disappointing first season with the Grizzlies after he signed a four-year, $94 million contract last summer that was the most lucrative deal in franchise history for an incoming free agent. But the injury issues that tarnished Parsons’ career the previous two years resurfaced last season and limited the six-year veteran to just 34 games with Memphis.

Having entered the season recovering from the right knee surgery he sustained in March 2016 while with the Mavericks, Parsons pushed through treatment and therapy throughout his first season with the Grizzlies until he was diagnosed with a partially torn ligament in his left knee after the All-Star break. He shot just 33.8 percent from the field and averaged 6.2 points and 2.5 rebounds in 19.9 minutes during what was the least productive season of his career.

But with three knee surgeries in as many years now behind him, Parsons said his body feels as good as it has since he emerged as one of the league’s most promising wing players four seasons ago in Houston.

“I’m finished with the whole rehab part,” Parsons said. “Now, it’s moving onto working out and doing more and more on the court. I keep progressing each week. Now, every time I say, ‘Rehab’ the (trainer) I’m working out with corrects me and says, ‘It’s just workouts now.’ It’s the first time in three years I’ve had a full offseason to do my rehab, work on my game, work on my handle, work on my post game, continue to get reps and work on my shot. I feel unbelievable.”

Parsons said he hasn’t started 5-on-5 basketball workouts yet, but expects to gradually increase his on-court workload in the coming weeks with more competitive scrimmage drills. But in addition to the shooting work he shared on his social media accounts, Parsons has also mixed in boxing, yoga, Pilates and other specialized conditioning work to improve his balance, stamina and core strength.

There haven’t been any setbacks and Parsons insists he’s free of pain.

“It’s completely different,” Parsons said. “Last season, I would feel like a click, or I’d get swollen or it would hurt to walk around between games and shootarounds or to get on a flight. So all of the things that were happening last year aren’t happening anymore. I feel unbelievable and I’m making progress.”

The Grizzlies are banking on that progress to pay off on the court next season. With relatively little salary cap space this offseason and four veteran rotation players set to enter free agency on July 1, Memphis is relying on cornerstones Mike Conley and Marc Gasol to stabilize the team through any potential transition. Parsons was added to be a reliable third option to space the floor and provide playmaking as coach David Fizdale further transitions to a faster tempo entering his second season on the bench.

Stick with me.. I signed a four-year deal, not a one-year deal. It didn’t go the way I wanted it to go last year. Trust me, they weren’t more upset about it than I was. I know fans are going to be fans and they have high expectations for me. I have the same for myself. Next season, I think it’s going to be different, so just keep rolling with me.

-- Chandler Parsons

During his best NBA season, Parsons averaged 16.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists and routinely shot near 40 percent from three-point range as a member of the Rockets in 2013-14. He improved his shooting after initially arriving in Dallas as a free agent and shot 41.4 percent from three-point range before suffering the second season-ending knee injury. Parsons said he understands why fans in Memphis were frustrated during his underwhelming, injury-riddled first season with the Grizzlies.

“It’s the competitive nature,” Parsons said of playing through the recovery and extensive treatment process last season. “I wasn’t going to sit out games or shut it down just because I wasn’t feeling 100 percent. That’s not in my DNA, that’s not in my character. I’m not like that. At the same time, I understand the fans’ expectations. I came here and signed a big contract, and they want me to produce and I didn’t. I have no hard feelings toward that. I hope next year they come back with a positive attitude. I know I do. I’m working out for myself and for my team and that’s going to show.”

While spending the majority of the past four months at his offseason home in Los Angeles, Parsons said he’s remained connected with his teammates, coaches and staff. Conley had dinner with Parsons earlier this month in California and Zach Randolph is renting a house in the neighborhood where Parsons recently purchased a home. Parsons also had dinner with Fizdale on the coach’s birthday two weeks ago. They’ve all worked out together on the west coast, and Parsons said Tony Allen is coming to visit next month.

“Anytime someone comes to L.A., I take them in and we get workouts,” Parsons said. “I love Memphis. L.A. is where I live in the offseason. Our doctors and trainers check in with me all the time. Every player in the league has a place where they train and live in the offseason. Mine happens to be in Los Angeles.”

Ultimately, Parsons looks forward to getting back to work in Memphis.

Next season represents a completely new slate.

He just has one request of Grizzlies’ fans.

“Stick with me,” Parsons said. “I signed a four-year deal, not a one-year deal. It didn’t go the way I wanted it to go last year. Trust me, they weren’t more upset about it than I was. I know fans are going to be fans and they have high expectations for me. I have the same for myself. Next season, I think it’s going to be different, so just keep rolling with me.”

Parsons soon will be rolling with the punches as those unorthodox workouts intensify.

Let’s hope there’s a productive spark in his knees to match the fight in his spirit.

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Memphis Grizzlies. All opinions expressed by Michael Wallace are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Memphis Grizzlies or its Basketball Operations staff, owners, parent companies, partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Memphis Grizzlies and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.