When we recently wrote about the idea of Chandler Parsons and JaVale McGee teaming up together to jump to the athletic fore for Dallas, we did so dreamily. Parsons, battling back from knee surgery, has rarely looked like the player the Mavericks bargained for since winning the summer-of-2014 game of bidding-war chicken with Houston. McGee was a player Dallas could've had for nothing last spring, but instead it waited until late in the summer ... when the Mavs got him for nothing, anyway, and had nothing-level hopes to match, as JaVale has battled problems with injury and attitude in a disappointing career.
But it all came together with both guys Friday night, a slow start overcome by terrific play by Parsons and McGee and more in an important 97-88 home win over the Grizzlies.
"This is when you become a true professional," coach Rick Carlisle said of overcoming adversity. "Everybody does fine when everything is good. Everybody wants a nice-cooked steak, but nobody wants to see you chopping up the cows in the back.The last five or six months, Parsons has been in the back butchering the cows. That's the kind of work he's had to do."
McGee has also been swinging a cleaver, trying to separate himself from his goofball reputation. He has been used sparingly by Carlisle so far in this 15-12 season, but here the athletic McGee would finish with 10 points, five rebounds and three blocks in just under 18 minutes. McGee himself sensed that a sequence in which he challenged a pair of Zach Randolph shots energized his mates.
"I definitely think it was a game-changer," McGee said. "We started playing harder, and the game turned around."
Zaza Pachulia is still Dallas' greatest big-man find of the summer, as he demonstrated here with 18 rebounds against the burly Grizzlies. But our vision of a Zaza/JaVale two-headed center attack seems on the verge of being realized.
It'd be nice if that was joined by the vision of Parsons as the go-through playmaker, the "point-forward,'' the "heir to Dirk'' and all the other wonderful things that have been said about him ... and that CP has said about himself. For now, he's still taking baby steps (or, like this team that was embarrassed in Indiana earlier this week, taking one step forward followed by one stumble in reverse.)
But this was a fine outing for Parsons -- maybe the best of his year -- with 16 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in an extended 31 minutes, all of which supplemented the stardom of Dirk Nowitzki (20 points).
“I felt good,” said Parsons, naturally a candidate for your vote for "The Dirkie.'' (Vote here!) “It’s just important to get in a rhythm like that where everything is starting to feel like it’s coming easy.”
Not nearly enough has "come easy'' for a Mavs team that entering this game had won just two of 10 against clubs with winning records and had lost three of its last four home games. (See more notes on this win here on DB.com Boards.) Said Dirk, noting that the team was coming from an hour of film study to attempt to solve some recent woes, including a dismal loss this week at Indy: "Everybody played well. I thought the bench gave us a lift with JaVale. Parsons played well with some rhythm right away.''
You think you might know what you're getting with Parsons. Maybe. McGee? He's played only 28 games the last two seasons and has appeared on only eight games with Dallas. The medical people have tried to figure him out, just as so many coaches have tried to do the same.
"Listen, JaVale by no means has arrived," Carlisle said. "This is one really important game.''
"It's rewarding, but it's not the end of the road," McGee agreed. "It's not even close to the end. Until I'm out there playing 30 minutes, it's not the end.''
True. There is no nice-cooked steak. There is only the suggestion of sizzle. But back in the Mavs butcher shop, the cleavers are swinging.