DALLAS — Chandler Parsons, a man with a $46 million contract, a supersized ego and a supermodel girlfriend, needed a nice little boost to his self-esteem.
That’s how hard the process of coming back from hybrid microfracture surgery on his right knee has been for the Dallas Mavericks small forward.
The bad games kept stacking up, building into a massive mental burden as bothersome as any physical challenge Parsons faced in his fight back from a major surgery he underwent in May. He just couldn’t seem to find any sort of rhythm while playing restricted minutes, causing him to press, which only made his funk worse.
Suddenly, that all changed with his first bucket Monday night, a funky 10-foot turnaround when he got a mismatch on the block against Phoenix Suns guard Ronnie Price with 2:28 remaining in the third quarter.
“Sometimes that’s all your confidence needs,” Dirk Nowitzki said, “and he looked great after that.”
Perhaps this was a breakout performance for Parsons. For one of the few times this season, he was a primary factor in a Mavs win, scoring 15 of his 17 points during two critical spurts in the second half of the 104-94 victory over the Suns.
For whatever reason, the funky turnaround opened the floodgates. Parsons followed that with a driving layup, a pair of free throws and a floater in the final second of the frame, keying a 20-4 Mavs run to end the third quarter.
Eight points in 2:28? That’s quite a relief for a dude who entered the night averaging 7.9 points in 20.4 minutes per game this season.
“I haven’t had that feeling where the next shot is gonna go in in a long time,” Parsons told ESPN.com. “Just felt good. Felt like myself, felt fresh, felt bouncy.”
Parsons’ next shot was an and-1 3-pointer with a little more than seven minutes left in the fourth quarter, stopping the Suns’ momentum after they sliced the Mavs’ lead from 22 to 10 while he rested. He knocked down another 3 the next possession.
Parsons didn’t get to finish the game — he got pulled after his minutes reached a season-high 28 — but his fingerprints were all over the win. And it’s a breath of fresh air for him to leave the gym feeling good after struggling so much this season.
“I think a lot of it’s mental for me,” Parsons said. “Now we’ve got to build off this. The biggest thing for me is emotionally not getting too down, not getting so frustrated where it takes me out of my game.
“Now going into Indiana, I feel like the first shot I take is going in. I don’t ever shoot the ball thinking I’m going to miss, but coming off an injury where I haven’t played in a lot of game situations, I haven’t been playing great. It feels good to have a game like this just to know I’m feeling better and that I have a lot left.”
Parsons hopes the second half can be a turning point for his season. However, he knows it’d be foolish to assume that the road ahead will be smooth.
Shooting guard Wesley Matthews, who came back from a ruptured left Achilles tendon suffered in March, certainly can relate. Matthews thought he had his breakout night when he scored 25 points in a Nov. 11 win over the Los Angeles Clippers. Then he struggled mightily for the next three weeks until finally establishing an extended rhythm recently.
“I was so anxious to do it again,” Matthews said. “I was so ready to say, ‘I’m back. I beat this.’ I was ready for it to be in the books, but that’s not how it works.”
It’s a daily grind, a physical fight to recondition your body after a long layoff and a battle to stay strong mentally when the legs feel heavy and shots don’t fall. Just in case, Parsons will have coach Rick Carlisle in his ear to remind him.
“You can’t get seduced into thinking that one good stretch of shot-making can get you there — and he knows that,” Carlisle said. “He and I have been talking about it. There’s a big rock, and he’s got to keep chipping away at that rock.”
It was Parsons who picked up the phone Sunday to ask Carlisle to meet him on the Mavs’ practice court. Parsons didn’t think he deserved a day off, and he darn sure didn’t need one. He had Carlisle put him through a game-speed shooting session, running through various actions from the Mavs’ offense.
“He’s working his ass off,” Carlisle said. “He looked pissed. And he’s got to stay pissed.”
If he keeps chipping away, Parsons’ confidence will be the least of the Mavs’ concerns.