Candace Parker’s arrival in Las Vegas marked the beginning of a new chapter for her and her teammates. Her role with the Aces is different than her previous roles with the Los Angeles Sparks and Chicago Sky, but she’s still the same Candace—a great communicator, leader, and competitor who is willing to pitch in at any spot on the floor.
During the Las Vegas Aces’ media day, Parker expressed the importance of understanding the culture when coming to a new team, and she said there’s a levity among the Aces players that makes the day-to-day grind fun.
“We try to challenge one another, and we hype each other up,” she said. “I think that that’s fun for me to be a part of in my 16th season.”
Aces guard Kelsey Plum said she’s looking forward to cultivating on-court chemistry with Parker as the season progresses and that Parker’s attitude fits the Aces’ culture.
“I’ve just been really impressed with her humility,” Plum said. “I think Candace has come in from the jump and just been like, ‘Alright, what do I need to learn?’ trying to figure out the offense, learning our defensive schemes, how we do things. She hasn’t tried to be this authoritative dictator or anything like that. Candace has come in and understood the assignment.”
In the process of building synergy with her fellow Aces, Parker continues her on-court communication and holds herself accountable.
In a mic’d up moment during the Aces-Storm game in Seattle at Climate Pledge Arena, she was heard apologizing to teammate A’ja Wilson after Parker set a ball screen on Wilson’s defender (Ezi Magbegor) and forced a switch that stopped Wilson from taking her defender one-on-one.
“My bad. Do you just want me to let you play one-on-one?” Parker asked. Wilson agreed, and Parker followed up by saying,“I’ll let you play. My bad.”
The 37-year-old veteran knew it would take time to develop chemistry with her new teammates, so she says doing things that are second nature to her—knocking down open shots and rebounding—helps to bring the rest of her game along.
The Aces have been dominant to start the season, beating opponents by an average of 16.3 points per game (PPG). There isn’t the same pressure on Parker to play 30-plus minutes per game (MPG) or be one of the top three scoring options as there used to be, but she’s fitting in and impacting the game the way the Aces need her to. She’s averaging 8.1 PPG and 5.0 rebounds per game (RPG) in 22.5 MPG thus far this season. In her two best games, she had 12 points, five assists, and four rebounds against the Storm, and she secured 13 points, three rebounds, and three assists against the Dream.
Her former Sparks teammate Chelsea Gray said it’s a nice change of pace to play with Parker again. Her versatility opens up the floor, which allows her to create for her teammates and gives them more room to operate.
“Getting used to her being the one bringing the ball up again and not getting the outlet every time, I’m able to run my lane. It makes my life a lot easier,” Gray said. “When she rebounds the basketball and pushes, you have to treat her like a guard, so sometimes that’s difficult for defenses, and we’re able to get a lot of reads.”
The Aces are hoping to run it back for a second WNBA championship this year, and adding the seven-time WNBA All-Star gives them a player who not only demonstrates the versatility the team needs but also possesses an incredible basketball IQ. As a student of the game, Parker is always consuming basketball and willing to learn; it’s a pure passion for the two-time WNBA champion. She shares thoughtful hoops takes as an NBA analyst for TNT and NBA TV, and she recognizes the power of evolving as a player, not only by adding different things to her game but also by continuing to refine the skills she already has.
“I’m a basketball fiend. It’s always on in my house,” Parker said, noting she watches old basketball clips on YouTube. “My daughter was laughing at me because I was doing cardio in the offseason and I was watching an old game that I played in last year.”
I asked Candace Parker what her WHY is for this season – her 16th year in the WNBA – and she said she's a basketball fiend and a competitor. The game is always on in her house and she has a pure love for the game. ❤️🏀@Winsidr
— Lindsey Horsting (@lindseyhorsting) May 15, 2023
Parker’s role this year may look different compared to the ones she has played in prior seasons, but because of her ability to adapt, she can be called upon at a moment’s notice. Her versatility, offensive expertise, defensive prowess, leadership, and desire to be a good teammate are all parts of what make her an important piece in the Aces’ second-championship puzzle.