January 28, 2021 

Sparks lose Candace Parker to Chicago; retain Nneka Ogwumike and Brittney Sykes

Candace Parker has agreed to a deal with her hometown Chicago Sky

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forward-center Candace Parker. Photo Credit: Chris Poss of The Next

WNBA teams can officially begin signing free agents on Monday, but there has already been some big news this week as players and teams continue negotiations. It will be the end of an era in Los Angeles as franchise mainstay Candace Parker has agreed to a deal with her hometown Chicago Sky.

Parker’s absence will leave an immediate void on the Sparks roster. After an injury-plagued 2019, Parker had a bounce-back 2020 season that saw her regain her All-Star form and she won her first Defensive Player of the Year award.

Sparks general manager and head coach Derek Fisher appeared on a panel Wednesday afternoon with the Associated Press’ Doug Feinberg alongside other league executives and he gave his thoughts on the challenges he faced as a first-time general manager with a roster full of free agents including Parker.

“We really worked as hard as possible to make sure that they knew we loved them all and were committed to all of them and wanted to try to figure out the best way we could to re-sign as many players as possible,” Fisher said on the panel. “There was just no way to keep everyone happy, make sure everybody gets paid… We have to build and create a new way of how we’re going to be great going forward in this decade. That was going to take some tough decisions and having some hard conversations.”

Fortunately for the Sparks, they received some positive news for the franchise following the news of Parker’s departure. According to Rachel Galligan of Winsidr, free agent Nneka Ogwumike agreed to a multi-year contract to re-sign in Los Angeles. Galligan also reported that Fisher encouraged Ogwumike to take free agent calls with other teams.

Ogwumike was cored by the team meaning that she initially would’ve only been able to negotiate with the Sparks on a supermax deal. Her return ensures that the Sparks retain an All-Star level talent in the frontcourt. Ogwumike’s overall numbers were down in 2020, but she still was a key piece for the team and shot a career-high 50 percent from three-point range.

With Ogwumike in the prime of her career, it likely signals the Sparks’ desire to remain a competitive team this upcoming season as opposed to opting for a rebuild.

Ogwumike isn’t the only free agent the Sparks brought back into the fold on Wednesday. The team has come to terms with free-agent wing Brittney Sykes, also reported by Galligan.

Sykes was a restricted free agent and could have signed an offer sheet with another team giving the Sparks the ability to match. Her return gives the Sparks a tenacious defensive player who often took the role of guarding the opposing team’s best perimeter scorer, as well as a strong slasher with an improving three-point game.

The Sparks still have additional free-agent decisions to make regarding All-Star point guard Chelsea Gray.

David has been with The Next team since the High Post Hoops days when he joined the staff in 2018. He is based in Los Angeles and covers the LA Sparks, Pac-12 Conference, Big West Conference and some high school as well.

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