The offseason addition of Candace Parker makes the defending champs even stronger
The richest team in women’s professional basketball got richer over the offseason.
This came to pass when the Las Vegas Aces added two-time WNBA champion Candace Parker to its roster months after capturing the first title in franchise history.
“I think it makes us dangerous because of our depth,” fellow two-time league MVP A’ja Wilson said. “We’re allowed to [bring] more people that have been a part of our championship run off the bench to help sustain that. It’s just super cool to see her grow and gel with us.”
Parker, whose nickname is Ace, joins the Aces after spending the last two seasons in Chicago as a member of the Sky. The first of which netted her a second WNBA championship.
Last year, Las Vegas and Chicago played in the Commissioner's Cup Final which was won by the former. Both teams went on to tie atop the standings with a league-leading 26-10 overall record at season’s end in August.
“I’m not operated by caring what people think so there’s that,” Parker said about those criticizing her decision. “I think it’s just a great opportunity, it’s a great city, it’s a great team, it’s a great culture with great facilities. So just being able to hopefully add to the equation is exciting for me.”
Parker’s February move to the Aces did not come without more controversy as not long after the signing reports came of potential payments under the table from owner Mark Davis to complete the transaction.
While rumors and investigations swirl in the meantime, Parker ensures a major contributing factor to her decision to move back West was for her family including her now 14-year-old daughter, Lailaa.
“It’s huge for me,” Parker said. “I was able to go home on off days and be able to visit my kids. She’s going to be playing volleyball and basketball this fall and I’m going to be able to be at games. My daughter just left this morning and went straight to school on a 40-minute flight so that’s why I’m here: To play great solid basketball, compete for a championship and be able to have my family involved.”
In addition to wanting to bring her family back to something they’re familiar with, Parker made the leap in order to experience something she’s never experienced before. In fact, no one in the history of the league will experience what this year’s Las Vegas Aces will have after opening the first-ever practice facility solely dedicated to a WNBA team.
The 64,000 square foot facility in Henderson, Nevada and includes two basketball courts, a locker, film, training and family rooms along with amenities like a hot and cold plunge, infrared sauna, cryotherapy and a nutrition bar.
For Parker, it’s the little things that matter.
On the Draymond Green Show earlier this offseason, Parker said, “Draymond, I have not had a locker in my entire career. I’ve been in the WNBA for 16 years and I have not had a locker where it has my name on it and I can leave my shit and then come back and know my shit is gonna be there.”
At Aces Media Day, Parker still found herself relishing in everything that her most recent decision has brought her.
“I think I’ve got to pinch myself sometimes,” Parker said. “I was telling my wife the other day, ‘I pinched myself walking into the facility the other day like it’s going to get taken away or something because I know what that other side is like.’”
The 37-year-old Parker is entering her 16th WNBA season of what is sure to be a Hall-of-Fame career. In addition to two championships, she has won Finals MVP, been named League MVP, Defensive Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year while being named to seven all-star teams, ten all-WNBA teams while being a member of the league’s 20th and 25th anniversary teams.
Las Vegas head coach Becky Hammon was also a member of the WNBA’s 20th and 25th anniversary teams.
“I think there’s a lot of young guys coming in and you’ve got to kind of remind them sometimes,” Parker said. “It may take a second, I’ve got to get my body in order but you’ve got to remind them a little.”
While heading into her sixth year in the WNBA, Wilson is beaming with joy at the prospect of spending an entire season as Parker’s teammate.
“It’s already kicked in,” Wilson said. “When I seen her in Aces’ gear it had already kicked in. It’s funny because I’ve seen so many photoshopped pictures of us that it’s like, ‘No, we were legit on the court together for that one.’”
Over her illustrious career, Parker averages 16.4 points per game on 48% shooting, 8.6 rebounds per game and four assists per game while adding a block and a half a game along with 1.3 steals per contest.
Parker is joining a championship group that is headlined by Wilson as well as guards Jackie Young, Kelsey Plum and Chelsea Gray. Both Parker and Gray were members of the Los Angeles Sparks from 2016-20. This includes winning their first WNBA title together back in 2016.
Now, it’s up to Hammon and her staff to find a way to balance this talent-filled roster for yet another year in hopes of becoming the league’s first back-to-back champion in more than 20 years.
“Candace, [newly-acquired forwards Alysha Clark and Cayla George] are hoopers,” Hammon said. “Not that we won’t have rough patches as a group but I see them fitting in fine because they’re hoopers. Once they can get a feel for how we play, what I want from them and how we do things, I think it’ll be a pretty smooth transition, I would say.”
Parker is considering everything a full-circle moment.
“I leave everything open,” she said. “I think it’s unbelievable for us to have this full-circle moment where I played against Becky especially my rookie season coming in – she was that shifty, three-point shooting guard in San Antonio that actually beat us on a last second shot to go to the WNBA Finals in 2008.
“She played with my wife on the Russian National Team in 2012. She knows my brother [Anthony] very well because they’re around the same age. So I think it’s just one of those full-circle moments where you don’t rule anything out and anything is possible. I’m excited to be sitting here in an Aces jersey.”