There was 7:26 remaining in the second quarter of Game 1.
Chandler Parsons sprinted down the left side of the court with Rajon Rondo running on the opposite side. Parsons took the pass from Rondo, launched himself in the air and threw down a ferocious one-handed jam.
That dunk momentarily quieted the Toyota Center crowd and made it a seven-point game after the Dallas Mavericks trailed by as many as 13 in the first quarter. That also marked the last significant contribution Parsons would make this season. Minutes after throwing down that dunk, Parsons exited Game One with some of the Houston Rockets faithful cheering his injury. Not understanding the significance at the time, Parsons returned later in the game but did not make an impact in the 118-108 loss.
Every Player Review
Every Player Review
Now, Parsons has undergone knee surgery with no timetable set for his return.
Game 1 was a culmination of a nine month whirlwind for Parsons. From signing the $46-million offer sheet in an Orlando nightclub with Mark Cuban, to playing with Team USA, to showing flashes of being the star in Dallas when Dirk Nowitzki finally retires, Parsons showed flashes in his first season with the Mavericks that indicate he's ready for the limelight.
Parsons says if opponent hadn't been Houston, prob wouldn't have played Game 1.— Brad Townsend (@townbrad) April 23, 2015
As Parsons' season officially comes to an end, we take a look back at his first season in Dallas.
The hectic summer
It was this photo, at this moment, that began this journey of expected stardom from Parsons. From signing the three-year, $46-million offer sheet, to waiting 72 hours if the Houston Rockets would match, Parsons knew it was his time to become a superstar well before playing a single game in a Dallas Mavericks uniform.
But it didn't stop there. Hours after learning the Rockets wouldn't match the offer sheet, Parsons was named to the Team USA roster, now in the same breath as the likes of Kevin Durant, Paul George and Anthony Davis.
When I spoke to Parsons in Las Vegas during Team USA tryouts, he simply called that Sunday "one of the best days of my life."
I got a lot of love and respect for Houston. I loved my teammates and my coaches there. I was definitely sad about leaving there, but I’m so excited about the opportunity that I have with Dallas and that next step, that bigger role. Mark Cuban is the best owner in sports, Rick Carlisle‘s one of the best coaches. Just to be able to play with Dirk [Nowitzki] as his career winds down here, just to be able to learn from all of those veteran guys, it’s exciting.
That experience proved invaluable for Parsons. Even though he didn't make the final roster, he turned that into motivation, knowing he'd have to show the Mavericks that he could become the guy they paid max money for. When the season began, on a night where the San Antonio Spurs were honored with their championship rings, that didn't appear to be the case.
How did we get here?
We begin with that Oct. 28 night in San Antonio, where these new-look Mavericks filled with high expectations and (at least) conference championship aspirations took the floor against their in-state rivals and defending champions.
Less than three minutes in to his Dallas debut, the new era began.
With one emphatic dunk over Tim Duncan, the Mavericks got a glimpse into the future. That dunk wouldn't be a sign of what was to come, as Parsons finished that game 2-of-10 and missed the potential game-winning shot at the end of regulation.
The transition to becoming a future No. 1 option remained rocky for the rest of November. He had three straight games of 20-plus points after the Spurs debacle, but failed to be consistent the rest of the way. Parsons only averaged 14.6 points per game in November on 41.5 percent shooting. That, in turn, led us to collectively write why Parsons was playing so terribly. After that, Parsons went on a December run for the ages, averaging 18.2 points per game on 51 percent shooting and 45 percent from 3-point range.
Dallas also went 10-5 in the month of December, and though they were playing their best basketball of the season, they pulled a trade for Rajon Rondo to shore up point guard play and a shaky defense. Post-trade, Parsons' production dropped the most from a PPG perspective, but he still shot the ball well in January at 47 percent.
When all was said and done, Parsons put together a very solid season despite the post-Rondo trade dropoff. He scored 15.7 points per game (almost an entire point less than his last season in Houston), shot 46 percent from the floor and 38 percent from 3-point range, almost a career-high.
Given the expectations, he passed the test. Next year, he may have an even greater opportunity to be the leader on the Mavs, given Dirk Nowitzki's decline and the unknowns leading into free agency.
There's also another unknown, however: Parsons himself, and what this knee surgery means going forward.
So ... is he injury prone?
Parsons fighting through injury is concerning for the Mavericks, even if Dallas has one of the best training staffs in the NBA. Parsons missed 16 games this year due to injury, including two stretches where he missed six games or more. He's missed an average of 12.3 games over the last four years and played eight fewer games this year than last.
It's unclear how Parsons' role will change next year. Rick Carlisle won't have to monitor his minutes like he did Dirk, but depending on how serious this knee problem could be, the Mavericks will have to be cautious. Parsons has had to deal with wrist and hip injuries before, but this is his first time undergoing surgery and hopefully it doesn't come back to haunt him or the Mavericks.
What can we expect next year?
Assuming successful recovery from the knee surgery he underwent several days ago, Parsons should have an even bigger role next year, possibly moving towards being a no. 1 option. That doesn't mean Dallas can't get some help -- but as things stand, Rajon Rondo will not be back next year, and Monta Ellis' return to the fold is far from certain.
But this knee injury may make it essential for Dallas to test the free agent market this summer more aggressively than they expected to do. ESPN.com's Marc Stein has reported that the Mavs believe they have chance at signing LaMarcus Aldridge this summer. Aldridge would solve a lot of problems and become the No. 1 option with Parsons becoming the No. 2 option once again, but with less pressure on his shoulders. Danny Green and Goran Dragic are some options to look out for, especially if Dallas strikes out on Aldridge.
It's going to be another long summer for Dallas, and that will lead into the most uncertain future this team has faced in years.