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Lessons from Rick Carlisle help Chandler Parsons' slow recovery

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Parsons' 17-point outing might not be the turning point of his season, but the confidence boost is important.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

DALLAS -- Chandler Parsons didn't deserve a day off. That's what he thought, anyway. The Mavericks were given Sunday off, but Parsons met with his head coach Rick Carlisle at the American Airlines Center anyway, taking game shots and practical advice from a man who is his biggest supporter.

Maybe the extra repetition paid off or seeing shots fall through gave him a confidence boost that translated to the court. Maybe it was just the law of averages finally swinging in his favor. Either way, Chandler Parsons played a season-high 28 minutes and scored 17 points, his second-highest total this season, in a much-needed 104-94 win against the Phoenix Suns on Monday.

"He's working harder than he's ever worked," Rick Carlisle said. "He's going to outlast this situation. This whole rehab, reconditioning thing, it's a mental as well as a physical challenge. He took the mental challenge tonight. He missed his first three or four shots and just kept hanging in there, kept playing his butt off, playing hard, doing things hard. That's what it takes."

Parsons has been limited under severe minute restrictions all season as he recovers from offseason knee surgery. As an NBA player in the 80s, Carlisle once had a similar injury rehabilitation that left him with practical advising for his struggling star forward. On the practice court Sunday, he continued to remind Parsons not to be "seduced" by a single good stretch.

"There's just a big rock he's got to be chipping away at," Carlisle advised him. "It takes an amazing amount of persistence and wherewithal to get through that. Ask Wes Matthews."

So we did.

"He's recovering from something that's not easy," said Matthews, who himself is continuing to work all the way back from an Achilles injury last spring. "He's a big piece from this team. We're pushing him to continue to be confident in (himself). It's good to see him have a game like that."

Parsons did miss his first four shots before a late third quarter scoring burst completely changed the outlook of his game. He hit a floater and then split the defense for a layup. He picked up a foul and knocked in both free throws. With seconds left in the quarter, he threw a shot up -- a prayer, really -- that banked in. In the fourth quarter, Parsons nailed two triples -- one of them a four-point play -- that helped Dallas maintain a fourth-quarter lead.

"I've said all along, it's been very frustrating struggling like this, not being able to move the way I feel like I should move, not making shots," Parsons said. "(Tonight), every shot I took, it felt like I was going to take the next one. It really felt good to get in a groove like that after not feeling that in a really long time."

And yes: even though Parsons still feels slow, there are other aspects he's still working to overcome.

"A lot of it is mental, a lot of it is confidence," Parsons said. "It's a long season. A key for me is to string another one together in Indiana, just try to build off this."

As the Mavericks have seen leads evaporate and the offense stagnate throughout the season's opening month and a half, they're desperate for Parsons to fully return to form as a player who can make shots when others aren't. Like Carlisle warned, one slew of made baskets doesn't change anything yet -- but it certainly can't hurt.