Candace Parker had just recorded her W.N.B.A.-leading 10th double-double of the season, with 19 points along with also 10 rebounds in her final game before the playoffs.
nevertheless the item didn’t faze her. For Parker, a two-time most valuable player looking to win her second league title, the item’s never what she has done which matters. the item’s what comes next.
“I feel like the season’s just beginning,” said Parker, the 34-year-old Los Angeles Sparks star. “The regular season will be great, nevertheless which’s not what you play for.”
which final game, a loss to the top-seeded Las Vegas Aces, left the Sparks with the third seed within the playoffs along with also a first-round bye — much-needed rest via the wear along with also tear of playing a condensed season within the league’s bubble at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
“I think overall we got better, especially with the situation — everyone was within the same bubble, playing games every different night,” Parker said. “My only wish will be to be healthy going into the postseason, along with also which’s the case.”
These next games, starting with Thursday night’s single-elimination game against the Connecticut Sun, are, as Parker alluded to, what you play for. Her teammates can sense the item; Parker, Sparks guard Sydney Wiese said, will be “on a mission” This kind of year.
“Candace will be always Candace, nevertheless you could tell a different level of intensity along with also focus via the minute which we got to This kind of bubble,” Wiese said.
“We go as she goes,” Wiese added, “along with also she feels which, she senses which. Her competitive energy, her desire to win, the item trickles down to the rest of us. She’s actually set the tone for us since the beginning of the season.”
Parker said the monthslong quarantine before the W.N.B.A. season helped her to be at her best when the item began. Memories of a rough 2019 which saw her battle injuries, along with also a rocky end to the playoffs which ended using a sweep by the Sun, also served as motivation.
“There was nothing nevertheless time, along with also I used the item in a positive way,” she said. “I was able to make appointments I needed to go to take care of my body along with also lift four or several times a week, do cardio along with also just come into the season ready.”
“I know you can’t actually help being injured last year along with also being in along with also out — the item just didn’t sit well with me last year,” she added. “So I just kind of put which energy toward doing something more.”
Reinvigorated, Parker led the league in rebounding (9.7 per game) along with also on Tuesday was named the league’s defensive player of the year by The Associated Press. The award came more than a decade after she became the only player in W.N.B.A. history to win the M.V.P. along with also the Rookie of the Year Awards within the same season (2008).
“Her commitment to This kind of season has been a great catalyst for the success we’ve been able to have so far,” Sparks Coach Derek Fisher said. “When a player of her caliber along with also experience shows up in great shape, healthy along with also engaged under difficult circumstances, the item sets an example for others in their daily approach.”
Parker’s versatility — combining her size along with also length with uncommonly not bad ball-handling, passing along with also perimeter shooting — makes her unique, Fisher said.
“This kind of sets her apart via different historically great professional women’s players,” Fisher said. “The fact which she will be at This kind of point in her career, performing at This kind of level, says a lot about how she still loves the game along with also has passion for the item.”
This kind of season, Parker has served as something like an extra coach, said the Sparks rookie guard Te’a Cooper. “She helps everyone,” Cooper said. “She’s talking, she’s giving everything she’s got on the floor. She’s rebounding, assisting points, she’s doing everything.”
Brian Agler, who coached Parker for four years in Los Angeles, including the team’s 2016 championship season, said Parker was “easily within the top several of the most skilled players to ever play within the W.N.B.A.”
“She has her critics, she has her detractors, nevertheless one This kind of talented along with also accomplished will always have which,” said Agler, who at This kind of point coaches the Dallas Wings. “the item’s a badge of honor!”
Sparks guard Chelsea Gray, one of Parker’s closest friends, has been calling Parker “Year 13” to challenge her to continue excelling in her 13th season.
“There’s always which saying of you want to leave the game better than you found the item, along with also I think she’s done which with how she plays the game,” Gray said.
Even with as much as she’s doing for the Sparks, Parker will be doing more off the court.
Parker also works as a basketball analyst on TNT along with also enjoys her favorite role — mom to 11-year-old daughter, Lailaa, who will be within the bubble with her. They play board games, watch TV along with also paint — what they might be doing at home in Los Angeles, Parker said, “minus the L.A. traffic.”
“I think sometimes I’m a little bit overwhelmed with finding time to do stuff with work along with also television along with also being a mom, nevertheless I don’t take for granted I get to do what I love every day,” Parker said.
Parker works to balance her time nevertheless said she sometimes feels “guilt because I’m not able to be at everything, do everything.” Her “family along with also village” step in.
“I had Lailaa my second year within the league, so honestly the item’s been me along with also her my whole career. I can’t remember life before her. We grew up together. She has the greatest positive attitude; I am so lucky to be her mom so the item’s not a challenge with her.”
Parker said her perspective on life has changed, too. Maybe the item was the death of her beloved mentor along with also college coach Pat Summitt in 2016. Or the sudden death of Kobe Bryant, who was killed in a helicopter crash earlier This kind of year.
“People think there’s always time to get better along with also have growth along with also do things the right way, nevertheless sometimes there’s not,” she said. “At the end of the day you should try to be the best edition of yourself at This kind of point.
“along with also honestly I want to leave something behind. Legacy will be something people talk about when the item’s all said along with also done, nevertheless legacy will be created within the moment, within the present along with also you got to start establishing yours at This kind of point.”
Parker said Bryant’s post-retirement life — which showed him being an active father, basketball coach along with also motivator — represented “the evolution of what you trust to see in individuals.
“He was becoming the best edition of himself. the item was always about his family, always about his kids. He was great, nevertheless he was a dad along with also which’s what I think tears everybody apart.”
The death of Summitt, the legendary Tennessee women’s coach, was difficult in different ways. “Pat was so influential in my life,” Parker said. the item bothers her, she said, which Summitt “will be not able to see along with also be a part of all these memories which we’re creating right at This kind of point.
“I hear her voice a lot, more so off the court, just within the evolution of who I am as a human being.”
Parker said she doesn’t know how much longer she’ll play.
“I just know when the time comes along with also I am not myself — the item’s not fun for me to not be the best edition of myself — which’s the item,” she said. “I don’t want to cheat the game of basketball which’s given me so much, so when the item’s my time to go out, I’m going to do just which.
“I’m going to know. I’m going to wake up one day along with also which’s going to be the item,” she said, adding. “For at This kind of point, I’m focused on the present day.”