No matter how the rest of the Washington Wizards season plays out, the final 16-game stretch that began Monday night with a win over the Sacramento Kings is important for Jabari Parker.
The 23-year-old power forward, who was acquired from the Chicago Bulls during the trade deadline last month, is set up for a team option of $20 million for next year. While it isn’t a given, there is a chance that Washington declines the option and Parker becomes a free agent.
Therefore, the final few weeks of the season offer Parker a chance to demonstrate his worth to Washington and potentially other NBA suitors. So while the Wizards entered Monday slipping in the race for the playoffs, the role player knows there is plenty left to fight for.
“I know for myself, I never try to skip games,” Parker said following Monday’s win. “Every time I get on the court, I try to do my best.”
Against the Kings, Parker lived up to that mindset. Finishing with 18 points, he provided energy and momentum off the bench.
Doing most of his damage in the first half, Parker led the team in scoring through two quarters with 14 points including three made three-pointers, his second consecutive game doing so. A majority of those baskets came in during the second quarter, when the Wizards were in need of someone to step up and score.
With Bradley Beal still struggling to find his shot and dealing with some foul trouble, Sacramento began to cut into the eight-point lead Washington had built following the first 12 minutes of action. Yet as the visiting team tried to mount a run, Parker was consistently there to keep the momentum from shifting too far over to the Kings.
Parker was a one-man scoring machine to close the half. With the Wizards leading 39-28 with 8:55 remaining in the quarter, Parker would score 11 of the team’s next 14 points, including eight straight.
When his scoring outburst had concluded, the Wizards clung to just a 53-48 lead. While Washington would go into the break trailing by one point, Parker’s spark in the second allowed the team to hang close and stay within striking distance, eventually regaining the lead early in the third.
The fourth-year veteran’s solid play on Monday is just the most recent positive performance he’s put in during his short time in D.C. In his last five games, Parker has scored at least 15 points in every contest. In the month of March, he's averaging 16.8 points per game.
Parker’s future after this season may not be clear yet, but he’s continuing to make the most of his opportunity as he works to create a lasting impression. And even in the time of uncertainty, he still has his sights set on one goal in particular.
“I wanna be there, I want to play in the postseason,” Parker said. “I don’t have any kids, don’t have any obligations but basketball right now.”
MORE WIZARDS NEWS: