WNBA free agency has arrived. Teams can now interact with players and formulate deals. However, contracts can’t be signed until Feb. 1; the first official day teams can sign players to contracts. Some players have been quick to make their decision on who they’ll play for in 2021. Candace Parker was one of those players.
Parker has been one of the faces of the WNBA. The Tennessee alum spent her entire career with the Los Angeles Sparks, where she became a legend. She now enters free agency with much left in the tank at 34-years old. Parker is going back to her roots, deciding to play for her hometown team.
Candace Parker is a WNBA Legend
Even for fans who don’t follow the WNBA regularly, Candace Parker is a household name in the sports world. She’s been an elite basketball player since her days at Tennessee with Pat Summit. When the Sparks picked her with the No. 1 overall pick in 2008, they knew Parker would elevate their franchise to greatness.
Parker has done just that. For her career, she averages 16.9 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per game, via the WNBA website. She is an exceptional defender, averaging over 1.5 steals and blocks per game. Parker has become a five-time All-Star, five-time first-team All-WNBA, and a WNBA champion. She led the Sparks to a championship in 2016, being named the Finals MVP. The two-time MVP has dominated the league, becoming a living legend on the court.
Coming into this offseason, Parker was one of the many players the Sparks wanted to keep. Her last few seasons in LA weren’t pretty, with rumors about her relationship with head coach Derek Fisher. The incident involving former general manager Penny Toler after a playoff game is another sore spot. Despite that, Fisher wanted to do everything he could to re-sign the 13-year pro and help her “finish her career in LA.”
Candace Parker could’ve stayed with the Sparks, allowing her to play her entire career with one team. She and LA would still be considered title contenders, even favorites, if she was to stay. As she enters the twilight of her career, Parkers wants to be home and in front of her family.
Candace Parker is signing with the Chicago Sky
Candace Parker will sign with the Chicago Sky, per Romona Shelburne, in what is considered a massive shift in the WNBA landscape. Parker grew up in Naperville, Illinois, which is about a 45-minute drive from Chicago. Any athlete’s dream is to play for their hometown team when they make it to the league. Parker had those same aspirations, and it came to fruition.
According to Shelburne, it was playing at home that sold Parker on signing with the Sky. She understands that her basketball career is close to ending, so she wanted to have the opportunity to play in front of friends and family. When the Sky and Parker began talking, the reality of that opportunity became real. It was too appealing for the elite forward to pass up.
Going to the Sky is a huge move for Parker and the team. Parker averaged 14.7 points, 9.7 boards, 4.6 assists per game last season. Her defense was exceptional, averaging 1.2 blocks and steals a game. She won her first Defensive Player of the Year Award last year. Her skill set, joining the talent already on the Sky’s roster, makes them a team poised for a championship run.
The Chicago Sky have a loaded starting lineup
The Sky are a young team that is rising the ranks of the WNBA. Led by Diamond DeShields and Allie Quigley, the team has been growing into legitimate contenders in recent years. After a 12-10 finish and a first-round exit in 2020, the Sky are looking to take that next step. With the Candace Parker signing, Chicago’s lineup is one of the most lethal in the WNBA.
Parker’s incredible stat line is joining Courtney Vandersloot, who is going to feed her constantly. Vandersloot is a dime dropper, setting the WNBA record for assists per game with 10 last season. Her vision could be dangerous with Parker in half-court sets and on the fast break. Parker also gives the team an upgrade down low, which will allow shooters space on the floor.
McQuigley led the team in scoring with 15.4 points per game last year. That could take a dip to compensate for Parker, but she should still be a main part of the offense. Adding Parker could help McQuigley and DeShields, as they could have more one on one opportunities. The Sky’s starting five is stacked with All-Star talent, which brings championship expectations.
Longtime LA Spark Candace Parker is going back home to continue her WNBA career. Joining the Sky pairs her with some great talent, giving her a realistic shot at capturing another championship. If Parker can win one for her hometown, it would be the perfect story for an Illinois native.
Stats courtesy of the WNBA Website