Chandler Parsons: Agent delivered Dwight Howard to Rockets on condition of declining my team option

Chandler Parsons and Dwight Howard with Rockets
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The Rockets curiously declined Chandler Parsons’ $964,750 team option in 2014.

Parsons, 25, had emerged as a quality starting small forward. His cheap salary looked like a boon with James Harden and Dwight Howard on max contracts. Though there might have been logic to declining the option to re-sign Parsons in restricted free agency (exercising the option would’ve allowed him to hit unrestricted free agency in 2015) or to use Parsons in a sign-and-trade, Houston just let him leave for the Mavericks.

So, why did the Rockets – owned by Leslie Alexander and general-managed by Daryl Morey – decline Parsons’ option?

Apparently to sign Howard the year before.

Shortly before Houston landed Howard from the Lakers in 2013 free agency, Parsons changed agents from Mark Bartelstein to Dan Fegan, who represented Howard.

Parsons on “All The Smoke“:

My agent said they’re going to pick up the fourth year. Why wouldn’t they? You’re owed like 920 grand or whatever and just a huge bargain for them.

I end up hiring Dan Fegan. The only reason because – RIP – because he said, “I can get you out of that fourth year.” And no one else could.

And how he did it, basically, he used leverage. He went to the GM and he went to the owner and said, “I’ll you Dwight Howard. But you’re not picking up Chandler Parsons’ contract.”

That worked out for the Rockets. They got Howard, a star who outshined Parsons.

It worked out for Parsons. He got a big raise in Dallas – a three-year, $46 million contract that contained a player option, which later allowed him to sign a four-year, $94 deal with the Grizzlies.

It worked out for Fegan, who got a new client and a bigger commission.

But what about Howard? Did Fegan steer him to a team the center wouldn’t have chosen otherwise? Even if Howard were headed to Houston anyway and Fegan were merely leveraging that information, there was still an issue. Fegan’s plot weakened Howard’s new team. The Rockets topped out at the 2015 Western Conference finals and lost in the first round the next year. Perhaps, they would’ve advanced further if they still had Parsons. Essentially, Howard got used to undercut his own chances of team success.

This isn’t to single out the late Fegan. But it illustrates the types of conflicts of interests that routinely occur within a league where agencies have multiple clients. Ideally, everyone handles these situations ethically, but there are gray areas and conflicting incentives. Those are ripe for exploitation and should be monitored.