Amidst an auditorium full of excited middle schoolers, it was impossible not to see Chandler Parsons. Speaking at a BBVA Compass and NBA Cares event, the Mavs small forward spoke about financial responsibility and the importance of education to some of Dallas’ youngest basketball fans.

But aside from Parsons towering over students and teachers alike, one other thing about him was completely conspicuous: He was walking on crutches. The 6′ 10″ wing is now in the recovery process after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in Dallas on May 1 to address a cartilage issue in his right knee.

It was his first surgery of any kind, and the rehab process is anything but easy, but Parsons is still keeping a sense of humor about it. What’s the hardest thing about being crutch-bound? “Getting up to go to the bathroom,” he joked, slowly and carefully making his way down some stairs. Staying positive about a difficult situation is one way to make the process easier to endure, however.

“It’s something I’ve never really done before, so I’m trying to stay positive, just trying to stay disciplined with it,” he said about his experience with rehab. “Obviously it’s frustrating. I want to play. I want to still be playing right now, competing for a championship. But I’m staying positive — I’m gonna try and make a negative into a positive and come back stronger than ever.”

Parsons, who averaged 15.7 points in his first season in Dallas, was coming into his own before tweaking his knee in a late-March game in Indiana. Thought at that point to be nothing more than a typical bump-and-bruise injury, the small forward played on, perhaps saving his best performance of the season for the last game in which he’d see full time. He scored 22 points in a wild 135-131 road win in Oklahoma City, leading the offense in the fourth quarter and making several big plays down the stretch in a win that would go a long way toward securing yet another playoff berth.

Parsons would then leave the next game, a home tilt against the Houston Rockets, early. To that point in March, he’d averaged 17.6 points on 52.4 percent shooting and 40.4 percent on 3s. The small forward would just see action in Game 1 of the first round before being sidelined the rest of the season.

Missing that series, particularly against his former team, was a tremendous challenge for the young player. There was no shortage of drama in the Mavs/Rockets series to begin with, but Parsons’ return to Houston to square off against James Harden, Dwight Howard, and the rest of the team was perhaps the biggest storyline of them all. Still, Parsons said watching from the sideline gave him a fresh perspective on the mental side of the game that will help him in the future.

“You pick up on some things that sometimes, when you’re in the heat of the game, you don’t really get to watch and sit back and learn,” he said. “I think I matured a lot, I see a lot of things where I can help, I see a lot of things that I was doing that maybe necessarily wasn’t helping.”

Any type of rehab is slow-moving. As he’s stuck with crutches for another couple weeks, Parsons can’t do any weight training which requires him to stand and put pressure on his ailing knee, so he said most of his activity has been limited to stretching, riding the stationary bike, core work, and yoga, a new favorite among many Mavs players.

The core work, in particular, is something Parsons is happy to tackle. Even after tearing his labrum during his rookie season, he never quite focused on that area as much as other regions of his body, but turning all his attention to the area between his hips and shoulders will unlock a new level of physicality next season.

“When the season does start next year, my hips will be opened up,” he said. “I’ll be more flexible than I ever have, my core will be stronger than I ever have, which obviously will correlate to a lot of things that I do on the court and make things a lot easier.”

Of course, shooting the basketball requires leg strength, so that’s something Parsons isn’t able to do at the moment, even though he’s “chomping at the bit” to get some shots up. Neither can he play tennis, which he said is something he does in Los Angeles during the offseason. Basketball activities will resume later in the summer, once he’s given the go-ahead to put some more weight on his knee.

He also made it a point to say he appreciates the support Mavs fans have showed him online and in person. Finding out he’d need surgery wasn’t great news to MFFLs, needless to say, but the Mavericks faithful are as ready to see him play as Parsons is to take the floor himself.

“It’s been a very tough time for me, especially during the playoffs,” he said. “Not being able to play against my old team was rough — one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to go through. I hope (the fans) know I obviously tried to do everything I could to play. I wanted to be out there, but I’m gonna come out better from it.”

Even as he moved gingerly through Bayles Elementary School — just as well, as there was no shortage of small children, starry-eyed teachers, and camera phones around him — Parsons was on a mission to reinforce positive lessons to the students. Flanked by former Maverick and current Texas Legends coach Eduardo Najera and former NBA and WNBA players Bruce Bowen, Kiesha Brown, Ashley Robinson, and Taj McWilliams-Franklin, the recovering Maverick spoke about how success in basketball isn’t solely because of talent. It also takes studying hard and being prepared. Other former players stressed financial responsibility — particularly Bowen, whose fluency in Spanish might not rival Najera’s, but is still worthy of recognition.

What’s the most important money lesson he could teach the children? “To save it,” Parsons said.

“BBVA and these guys put on these unbelievable days where these kids can really learn and start from five, six, seven years old,” he continued. “It’s an unbelievable opportunity for these guys to know this stuff and be good at it by the time they get to high school and college.”

While rehabilitation might be a difficult journey, Parsons is taking it head-on to make sure he’ll be ready as soon as possible. And whether he’s riding a bike or meandering his way through the aisles in a crowded Dallas elementary school, all eyes are on him.

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