November 16, 2022
How Candace Parker’s planned WNBA return impacts the Chicago Sky
'Right now, yeah, I'm game'
Before the last season, Candace Parker said she didn’t know what the future held for her past the 2022 campaign. Months later, she still doesn’t but indicated her plan right now is to come back for her 16th WNBA season.
“Right now, yeah, I’m game,” Parker told Richard Deitsch during an appearance on the Sports Media Podcast. “Let’s see if my body is this way in January or February. But I plan to play. I plan to come back.”
Parker hinted at the idea she could still change her mind before the season like she did last offseason.
“But at the same time last year, it was the reverse,” Parker said. “I couldn’t imagine lacing up shoes again. I couldn’t imagine going through game 27 on the schedule. And then a switch flipped in February and I was ready to go.”
Unless the switch is flipped off ahead of WNBA free agency, Parker will head into January as an unrestricted free agent. She is turning 37 years old next April but her production hasn’t dropped off. After averaging 13.2 points, 8.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game, the two-time champion was named to the All-WNBA First Team last year. Parker also became the first WNBA player to record three triple-doubles in her career. Listing all of the accolades Parker accrued just with her time with the Sky would tire out any scribe trying to write it all down.
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Parker did not indicate on Deitsch’s podcast which team she would sign with when free agency opens up. On the Sky’s front, there are many factors in play that will contribute to retaining the future hall of famer. Kahleah Copper is the only starter from last season signed through 2023 while Azurá Stevens, a starting caliber big, will likely get a pay increase from the $140,000 she made last season. Parker isn’t going to enter any situation if she doesn’t believe the team will be able to win a title.
All eyes will be on Courtney Vandersloot heading into free agency. During her media exit interviews, the Sky’s longest-tenured player said there was a point last offseason where she thought she had played her last game in blue and yellow. Vandersloot ended up returning to the franchise that drafted her. Together, they ended the regular season tied with the best record in the WNBA. However, the momentum they built before the postseason was halted when Chicago was upset by the Connecticut Sun after the Sky held a 2-1 series lead in the semifinals.
Vandersloot is a free agent again and teams will be vying for her services. However, with Parker saying she is gearing up for another season, the Sky have another card to play if head coach/general manager James Wade can convince the two to stay in Chicago.
The Sky have more to prove to Parker than just retaining Vandersloot. The frontcourt depth they had on the roster from last season was a luxury they could lose if Emma Meesseman and Stevens don’t return. If one of them goes, that does leave money for the Sky to retain one of them. Perhaps former first-round pick Ruthy Hebard could step in as a cheaper option and be a backup to them after not playing many minutes in 2022. Hebard indicated she wanted more time on the floor during media exit interviews. Fan favorite Dana Evans said the same thing. Their futures with the Sky is something to monitor as the front office puts together its next roster.
Last season’s Chicago Sky team had the talent to win the WNBA Finals. They would be in the same position next year if they can get the band back together for a chance of winning two titles in one year. With Parker announcing she is likely to play next year, the Sky are a step closer to that feat.