Jabari Parker Looks Really Disengaged Right Now

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This past summer, the Bulls had $20 million in cap space, and they decided to spend it on bringing in hometown hero Jabari Parker on a two-year deal. When healthy, Parker had previously been a fringe all-star-level scorer, although the former second overall pick’s career has been maimed by a pair of nasty ACL tears. The Bucks weren’t willing to match that asking price, and the Bulls seemed like a good enough spot for Parker to land. If he was going to rebuild what had been a very promising career, he might as well do it in his home city, on a team under no pressure at all to win this season.

It has not worked out very well! Parker ostensibly signed with the Bulls to start at small forward, then got shuffled to the bench before the season even started and has logged 100 percent of his minutes this season as a power forward. He did not seem particularly happy with this adjustment, though injuries to Bobby Portis and Lauri Markkanen have shifted Parker back into the starting lineup for now. Through 12 games, Parker is averaging 14.8 points on 45 percent shooting, with eight more turnovers than assists. The scoring numbers are pretty bad, especially for a player whose lone theoretically positive NBA skill is scoring. What’s worse is, like, everything else.

Here, for instance, a uncatchable fastball—it does not seem correct or fair to call anything traveling at this velocity a “lob”—that Parker got mad at Wendell Carter Jr. for not catching last night.

And here are two bafflingly lackadaisical defensive plays, the latter of which forced Fred Hoiberg to call a timeout so that he could chew Parker out.

It seems likely that the cavalcade of viral defensive lapses will not stop this season, because even when he’s at his best that’s just the sort of player Jabari Parker is. His value is built on the idea that he might deliver enough buckets to make the numbers work out, but his scoring has never felt more like pure fluff than it has this year. His overall engagement seems tenuous and he’s already pissing off both his coach and the Chicago media. This sucks, and not just for him and his team. Parker’s career has been such a struggle because of nothing more than rotten luck, and all NBA fans should want him to succeed. It might be too much to ask him to become the star it once seemed like he would be, although there’s probably still some dim hope there. For now, I hope he at least becomes less embarrassing on the court.