September 22, 2020
What is Candace Parker’s future in Los Angeles?
The 13-year veteran is set to become a free agent
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PALMETTO, FL – SEPTEMBER 17: Candace Parker #3 of the Los Angeles Sparks handles the ball against DeWanna Bonner #24 of the Connecticut Sun during the WNBA Playoffs on September 17, 2020 at Feld Entertainment Center in Palmetto, Florida. Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images
Free agency is probably one of the last things on a player’s mind immediately following a crushing postseason loss.
Take Chelsea Gray, for example. Gray will become an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and when asked about her possible future with the Los Angeles Sparks following the team’s second-round playoff loss to the Connecticut Sun, she explained that it was too early for her to think about that.
But it was a different story for Candace Parker.
Parker is also set to become a free agent at the conclusion of this season. At age 34, Parker just turned in one of the best seasons of her career.
She missed much of last season due to nagging injuries, and when she was in the lineup, she was never able to develop any real consistency. The Sparks’ 2019 season ended with Parker on the bench as they were being swept out of the playoffs by the Sun.
This season, although the Sparks were eliminated early again, Parker went down swinging, playing the majority of the game and finishing with 22 points, 14 rebounds, five assists, and two blocked shots. After the game, she reflected on her 13 years in the league, all with the Sparks.
“It’s weird, I feel like you blink and you end up going from a rookie to a vet,” Parker said. “I can remember in my rookie year, when Sophia Young, she hit that bank shot off the glass that kept us from going to the Finals. I remember Brittney Griner’s turnaround jump shot on our home court to send them to the Western Conference Finals. It’s the what-ifs that I feel as though others define players as. For me, I think there’s a fine line between making plays. When we look at a number of athletes, we praise them when they’re winning.”
This season, Parker proved she is still capable of playing at a star level. She was in the MVP and Defensive Player of the Year conversations all season long. She led the league in rebounding. She’s the Sparks’ leader on and off the court.
She acknowledged that the team does have a lot of talent as currently constructed with the likely return of both Chiney Ogwumike and Kristi Toliver who decided to sit out this year, while also acknowledging that the team can’t keep coming up short if her future is to be in Los Angeles.
“I’ve had 13 years of the future being bright, at some point we’ve got to put it together,” Parker said. “I want to be in LA, I’ve been in LA my entire career. I’ve had a number of opportunities and a number of times where it’s been a real option to leave. I don’t want to leave LA, but at the same time, we’ve got to get better. We can’t keep saying next year.”
In order to continue to be in the conversation as one of the league’s elite teams and a contender for the championship, re-signing Parker is a must. She put up 14.7 points per game on 51.0 percent shooting from the field, 39.6 percent from the three-point line, 9.7 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.2 steals, and 1.2 blocked shots.
There will be other roster decisions the Sparks will have to make but make no mistake, it all starts and ends with Parker. There’s a lot to be said for a player who is able to spend their entire career with one franchise. Sometimes players can be swayed by outside influences and outside voices, especially when so much of a player’s reputation is seemingly tied to winning championships.
But Parker isn’t going to be influenced by any of that. While she acknowledged that anything can happen, Parker made it very clear that this is where she wants to be.
“My decision isn’t going to be determined by what other people think. I’ve played with LA for 13 years, I’m loyal,” Parker said. “I never say never, but at the same time, I’ve been with Adidas my entire career. I stayed at Tennessee when things got hard, I don’t quit. I would rather not quit than take the easy way out any day. That’s what it’s about.”