The Dallas Mavericks' hopes to make the playoffs were dealt a major blow Monday when an MRI revealed that forward Chandler Parsons had a torn meniscus in his right knee that required arthroscopic surgery.
But it’s just a minor hiccup for the long-term plans of Parsons and the franchise.
This injury is nowhere near as severe as the cartilage damage in the same knee that Parsons suffered last spring, leading to hybrid microfracture surgery and a difficult rehab process that stretched well into this season. Sources say the scope on Parsons' knee is expected to be "a clean-up," not a full repair of the meniscus, and that he could resume basketball activities within six weeks. His offseason workout program should be pretty close to routine.
That’s a far cry from spending much of last summer on crutches and not being cleared for full-contact drills until well into training camp.
The timing is just terrible for a Dallas team that is fighting for one of the West’s final few playoff spots and desperately needs Parsons' production and versatility. This is a major wrench in the Mavs' rotation, robbing coach Rick Carlisle of his starting small forward and backup power forward.
An optimist would note that the Mavs are 6-3 when Parsons sits this season, and beat the Portland Trail Blazers without him on Sunday. However, a realist understands there is probably a pretty significant fluke factor to that record.
The Mavs know how much they need Parsons, who had developed this season into an efficient offensive weapon to complement Dirk Nowitzki's seemingly ageless brilliance.
That’s why this won’t impact the vision that owner Mark Cuban, who personally consoled Parsons over dinner Monday evening along with Carlisle, has for the franchise’s future.
With the salary cap soaring, Parsons is still expected to opt out of the final season of his three-year, $46 million deal. Maybe a few suitors will shy away after two operations on his right knee in two years, but Cuban remains steadfast in his belief that Parsons can be a foundation piece for a perennial playoff team.
In a market in which most of the league will be swimming in cap space, Parsons is still expected to receive multiple maximum-contract offers. The Mavs remain the front-runners for Parsons and are prepared to pay him and aggressively bid on other free agents to add to a core for Nowitzki’s golden years and beyond.
In the big picture, this season was a success for Parsons, although he probably doesn’t want to hear that as he deals with the pain of it being ended prematurely.
Parsons fought back from a major injury, battling through the physical and mental challenges of a grueling rehab process that led to disappointing production early in the season, when he couldn’t find his rhythm while under strict minutes restrictions.
Once healthy, Parsons made huge strides in his fifth NBA season, averaging 18.9 points, 5.9 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game over the past two months, shooting 51.9 percent from the floor and 47.7 percent from 3-point range during that span.
Parsons, who has always had unique ballhandling skills for a 6-foot-9 forward, developed into a premier 3-point shooter. He proved that he can thrive at power forward, adding to his value with position flexibility.
The Mavs will miss that player for the rest of this season. That’s why they’re determined to keep Parsons in Dallas for the foreseeable future.