Candace Parker is back, but the Sparks are still a work in progress

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When assessing two-time WNBA MVP Candace Parker’s underwhelming return after an eight-month layoff from basketball, it’s only right to go to the source for her assessment.

“We’re 0-3 and I’m not playing the best so the assessment is we definitely have to get better,” Candace Parker said. 

“I’m mature enough to understand that it’s continuing to push through this and continuing to get better. It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” Parker told WInsidr after recently returning from a left hamstring injury that she suffered three minutes into the first preseason game against the Phoenix Mercury on May 11.

Over her illustrious career, the 33-year-old Parker has averaged 17.3 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.9 assists while playing 31.6 minutes a game. She has shot 48.1% from the field and 33.7% from 3.

Not the ideal start

In her first game back, the Washington Mystics dismantled the Los Angeles Sparks 81-52 on June 18. To put it succinctly, the Sparks and CP3 did not play well at all.  

Parker finished with 3 points on 1 of 9 shooting from the field. In addition to her shooting woes, She turned the ball over 6 times in 24 minutes of play. She did grab 5 rebounds, hand out 3 assists, and nab 2 steals. But, she missed easy inside shots that she’s accustom to making.  on the court. The former MVP also looked visibly tired, which makes sense as she works herself back into game shape.

While the game clearly did not go according to plan, Parker and Sparks will not panic. Her assessment of not getting too high or too low means staying the course and letting the 34-game WNBA regular season play out.

“Just play together. I think the more time we have on the court together. Nobody is feeling sorry for us. We’re not feeling sorry for ourselves,” Parker explained. “But we haven’t had a lot of time on court with one another. So I think that goes a long with it.” 

“Also, a full 40 minutes playing, you gotta get in shape,” Parker said with a sly laugh. “That’s kinda what these practices are about is making sure that our legs are underneath us and we feel good running up and down the court.”

In Parker’s second game against the Seattle Storm, the Sparks got housed again 84-62. And again, Parker had a quiet night. She finished with 2 points, again shooting 1-9 from the field with 4 rebounds and 2 assists. Her third game back against the Phoenix Mercury saw an increase in production for CP3, but also saw another 10 point loss for LA. Parker notched her first double double of the season, finishing with 12 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals. She also continued to shoot poorly, going 3-10 from the field. 

However, Parker did connect on 2 of 4 three pointers, showing the range Parker will need when she’s inevitably plays at the same time with All-Stars Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike. 

For your viewing pleasure, here’s my brief interview with CP3:

[EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was written before CP3’s breakout 18 point performance against the Aces.]

Parker’s fit with this group

Production from the WNBA All-Star lineup of Parker, the Ogwumikes, Chelsea Gray and Alana Beard is a must for the Sparks to reach their championship potential.

“We have to work through all of these things. It’s happening in front of everybody and that’s not always pleasant. But we have to disconnect ourselves from that. We can’t worry about what it looks like. We can’t be embarrassed to go out there and look awkward, uncomfortable. That’s part of growth and we just have to keep working,” Head Coach Derek Fisher said.

Parker’s versatility will be a necessity when 6’4 Forward/Center Maria Vadeeva returns from overseas commitments. Her versatility will allow Vadeeva, Nneka Ogwumike and Parker to all play together. The trio provides interchangeable inside and out players and playing them together allows Parker to initiate offensive possessions in a point-forward role. Parker will also find herself on the perimeter, to provide space when paired with 6’7 rookie center Kalani Brown.

Fisher working Parker in

Meanwhile, Derek Fisher has made it his mission to work Parker back into his free flowing offensive strategy. 

However, Fisher’s scheme is more intuitive than set plays.

“It’s not easy… (But) It’s going. In particular [with]a lead actor that everybody is accustomed to work with her a certain way. She’s accustomed to working with people a certain way. We have a new coaching staff. A new approach. A new way of doing things,” said the former Knicks coach and Lakers champion.

Fisher knows that Parker has the ability to play all five positions on the court. D-Fish loves the versatility of this roster as he moves the Sparks towards positionless basketball.

He wants to integrate Parker into the offensive flow the Sparks had early on in the season, when they were 4-2 and ranked in the WInsidr Power Rankings as the third best team in the league behind the Washington Mystics and the Connecticut Sun.

“Offensively… learning how to play without Candace when she wasn’t out there is the same way we need to continue to play. But that’s hard to do when Candace Parker is standing out there on the court,” Fisher continued.

The 12-year WNBA vet has been honest about her future in the game of basketball. 

“I have more basketball that’s behind me than that’s in front of me,” Parker revealed when asked about the joy the game of basketball provides her.

With that in mind, Parker knows how it important it is to appreciate and cherish the game of basketball before her playing days are over.

After early woes, Parker thinks the team’s current three-game home stand will do wonders for the team. They will not be playing another road game until July 9 against the Dallas Wings. LA hopes that getting some home cooking will put them back on track. 

BONUS: WNBA KICKS

Early in the season, Sparks Point Guard Chelsea Gray, who I profiled as the “Point Gawd” paid a subtle homage to Parker by wearing Parker’s signature Adidas Captain Marvel x Adidas Pro Vision “ACE” shoes.

“It means a lot. She’s one of my best friends so it means a lot for her to lace them up and play and show her support,” Parker concluded.

 

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About Author

John W. Davis is a Multimedia Journalist based in Inglewood, California. He loves to shoot & edit video and engage with readers / viewers on social media. In addition to covering the WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks, he has covered collegiate and professional Track & Field for various national outlets and co-hosted the "Pistonscast" Podcast covering the Detroit Pistons. He has worked on-air in several local television markets as a MMJ / News Reporter in Orlando, Florida and Fort Wayne, Indiana. Originally hailing from Detroit, Michigan, he got his start as an Associate News Producer. John is proud graduate of Central Michigan University, where he received his Bachelor's Degree in Broadcast and Cinematic Arts. He is also a proud graduate of Syracuse University, where he received his Master's Degree in Broadcast Journalism.

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