Consider this the NBA equivalent of a science project that had a pretty interesting hypothesis but blew up and caused a big, ol’ mess in the classroom.
The idea, which Parsons suggested after watching the Mavs’ miserable performance down the stretch of a loss in the home opener, was to make sure the point forward was available for crunch time despite his strict minutes restriction as he recovers from hybrid microfracture surgery on his right knee. Well, crunch time wasn’t a concern Thursday night, when the Charlotte Hornets led by as many as 24 points en route to handing the Mavs a 108-94 loss.
“It’s almost like the basketball gods saying, ‘Here you go for that dumbass idea,’” Parsons said after scoring only two points on 1-of-5 shooting in 14 minutes, during which Dallas was outscored by 16 points. “But it was worth a shot.”
The Parsons issue, as coach Rick Carlisle pointed out, is far from the Mavs’ biggest problem. Carlisle is much more concerned with the Mavs being outmatched physically in two straight games.
“You can’t blame the loss on that,” Carlisle said of the Parsons plan. “That’s just not what it’s about. We’ve got to play better.”
But it’s pretty remarkable just how spectacularly Parsons’ suggestion backfired.
The Mavs managed to hang with the Hornets for a half, trailing by only one point at the break. Parsons watched the first quarter from the bench and then retreated to the Mavs’ weight room and practice court to go through his regular pregame routine during the second quarter, hoping he’d have a little rhythm when he checked in the game to start the second half.
Parsons did hit his first shot, a 22-footer off a dribble handoff from center Zaza Pachulia. And that pretty much wraps up the list of things that went right for Parsons and the Mavs in the third quarter.
Dallas was down 12 by the time Parsons took his first break midway through the third quarter. Hornets center Al Jefferson (31 points on 15-of-18 shooting) had more buckets in the quarter than all of the Mavs combined.
This wasn’t exactly the kind of decision that earned Carlisle, who pushes the right buttons much more often than not, the five-year, $35 million contract extension he signed earlier Thursday.
Of course, Carlisle wasn’t stunned that this didn’t work. The concerns he voiced — that it’d be tough for Parsons to get in the flow after sitting for so long, and that the Mavs’ rhythm could be disrupted — came true.
“That’s one thing I respect about Coach Carlisle: He’s very open to ideas like that,” said Parsons, who had only one rebound and no assists. “Clearly, it didn’t work. But I don’t think it was everything to do with me checking in and then the avalanche came.”
It’s not as if there are any ideal solutions when a team’s most versatile offensive threat is limited to 15 minutes and is chipping off months of rust. Nor does it help matters that shooting guard Wesley Matthews, the Mavs’ highest-paid player, is also on a minutes restriction (26 to 28) and working his way back into game shape after surprising a lot of people by being ready for the regular season less than eight months after rupturing his left Achilles tendon.
“It’s going to be weird regardless until everybody’s at full health, no limitations,” Matthews said. “It’s going to be different. The ideal solution is they take my minutes restriction off, take [Parsons’] minutes restriction off and we go and play.”
Unfortunately, that’s not in anyone’s best interests in the long run, so it’s simply not an option. It will be several weeks before the Mavs are whole.
Dallas won’t deviate from the slow, gradual plans in place for Parsons and Matthews because of some painful bumps in the early going. Center JaVale McGee, whose length and athleticism is desperately needed for a team getting by without a real backup center, is still weeks away from being cleared to play, according to Carlisle.
So all Carlisle has to do is figure out how to win games with a roster that has hardly played together and has two of its best players on strict minutes restrictions. Hey, if his job were easy, team owner Mark Cuban wouldn’t have coughed up $7 million a year to keep Carlisle.
Still, as proven Thursday night, Carlisle is open to suggestions. Perhaps even from Parsons again.