The Bulls’ decision to use their remaining $20 million of cap space on Jabari Parker drew many a raised eyebrow, but the short-term nature of the deal at least offered a way out if things went south.
Things have gone south thus far.
Parker didn’t help himself right off the bat with questionable comments about defense, and then he was promptly benched in preseason after playing terribly on both ends of the floor. The Bulls signed him to start at small forward, but now they don’t even want to play him there.
Parker has since returned to the starting lineup thanks to Bobby Portis’ injury and Lauri Markkanen’s continued absence, but things haven’t gone much better. While the 23-year-old has had his moments scoring the ball (14.3 PPG is second behind Zach LaVine and playmaking, he has been inconsistent at best and close to unplayable at worst. His 51.2 true shooting percentage is below average, his shot selection is questionable, and he routinely gets targeted on defense.
This inconsistency was perfectly on display in the Bulls’ 96-88 loss to the Rockets on Saturday. After a stellar first half in which he scored 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting, Parker had four points on 1-of-5 shooting plus five turnovers in a disastrous second half. He finished the game with seven turnovers and zero assists and has more turnovers (25) than assists (18) on the season.
After the game, Parker again gave short, curt responses to the media, which has become something of a trend this season. He has also blown off the media on multiple occasions, and now it seems like some are starting to lose their patience with the whole thing.
670 The Score’s Cody Westerlund wrote a scathing article Saturday night that said Parker “seems isolated from teammates” and even counted words from recent postgame press conferences:
In what has quickly become stuff of media room legend, Parker is conducting absurdly short and aloof postgame interview sessions, when he doesn’t blow them off altogether. After a blowout loss to the Warriors on Monday, Parker conducted a 74-second interview. He was asked eight questions. His eight responses totaled 29 words, good for 3.63 words per question. Most of his answers didn’t address the topic that was broached.
Parker was only slightly more long-winded after Saturday’s loss, with his disdain equally on display.
Do you see a theme in your team’s lulls this season?
“No,” Parker said.
What do you think it is?
“I don’t know,” Parker said.
With the team’s 19 turnovers, what’s the issue? Unfamiliarity?
“Yeah, I don’t know,” Parker responded.
Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times penned a similarly critical column referencing both the poor play and short answers, calling Parker “245 pounds of mope” and saying the forward “acts and plays like someone who would rather be elsewhere.”
K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune wasn’t quite as harsh, but he also noted that Parker seems much more eager to talk about off-the-court things than what happens on the court, and he observed that the whole situation feels forced.
Parker does a lot of great things off the court for his hometown of Chicago, and that kind of stuff should be lauded. This is a guy who could be easy to root for because of it.
But Parker is paid a whole lot of money to play basketball, and right now it’s not easy to root for Jabari Parker, the basketball player. The general inconsistency in performance and blasé effort level are troubling, and the lack of professionalism with the media isn’t helping his cause. While some of the latter stuff can be overblown, it’s going to stand out more when the product on the court also stinks.
It’s still early in the season and Parker remains a talented player, but by all indications this is just an extension of what happened in Milwaukee, and it’s why the Bucks weren’t too bummed to let him walk (they certainly aren’t missing him on the floor).
Things will get even murkier once Markkanen and Portis return from injury, so Parker needs to turn things around sooner rather than later in a crucial season for his NBA future.