As Jabari Parker enters his sixth NBA season, the promising career of the former No. 2 overall pick has been twice derailed by a knee injury.
Again healthy, with a full summer to work on his game, his career continues with the Hawks after the forward signed a two-year, $13 million contract on Thursday.
Parker tore his left ACL 25 games into his rookie season in December 2014 and again in February 2017. He has averaged just 49 games per season in his NBA tenure.
When choosing a free agency destination, Parker said he chose the Hawks, in part, because of the training staff.
“I thought this was a great opportunity as far as my player development goes and as far as my health concerns everything pretty much aligned,” Parker said Thursday from the Hawks practice facility after arriving from Las Vegas where he agreed to terms with the team and met with the coaching staff. “You’ve got to go where you are wanted and Atlanta pretty much wanted me.
“It’s part of my career so far. To monitor to that is very key.”
The Hawks medical staff, led by Chelsea Lane, is highly regarded around the NBA. Parker said he has already had “good dialog” with Lane and called her reputation “definitely an attraction.”
Following four seasons with the Bucks after being drafted, Parker signed a two-year, $40 million contract with the Bulls. He was traded in February to the Wizards, who declined his $20 million team open last month. Parker has a player option in the second year of his deal with the Hawks.
In 64 games, including 17 starts, with the Bulls and Wizards last season, Parker averaged 14.5 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 26.9 minutes. He has career averages of 15.1 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 29.7 minutes.
“Jabari is a highly skilled offensive player and proven scorer, and we’re looking forward to incorporating him into our group,” Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk said. “We think he will fit well on the court and in the locker room, and we’re excited to welcome him to Atlanta.”
Parker said he is ready and willing to do what the Hawks ask. He believes his offensive game fits perfectly and that, after coming off the bench with other teams, has no problem doing the same with the Hawks.
The big question with Parker is whether his defensive game – or lack thereof – is a fit. Parker answered several questions about that part of his game.
“If anything that I can improve upon it’s my defense,” Parker said. “It’s a thing that I continually do is to input the same amount of effort on offense as defense. It’s up from here. When I was a rookie, very lost. Year two, I was trying to get better. I think I’ve become pretty (good) and I’m trying to improve my game that way.”
Parker said he was excited about the direction of the Hawks. He said they whole league noticed how they overachieved last season with a talented but young core of players.
Just 24 years old himself, Parker will be a veteran on this season’s version of the Hawks.
“From losing the head coach, to rebuilding, to having a young team, a lot of players leaving, I didn’t expect them to do as well as they did,” Parker said. “That’s normal, right? Have a brand new face, a brand new program. You have these teams that have been together for so long and (the Hawks) did better than them. Pretty much shocked all of us. Good things to look forward to.”
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