Thu, 17 Jun 2021

Candace Parker has Sky-high hopes as WNBA season begins

Field Level Media
15 May 2021, 03:55 GMT+10

The Chicago Sky hope the addition of local favorite and longtime WNBA star Candace Parker is the missing piece they need to reach the next level.

At the same time, the Washington Mystics are hoping they can rebound from a disappointing 2020 campaign with a return to action for some key contributors.

Some of the league's biggest stars are back on the floor Saturday afternoon in Washington D.C., when Parker debuts for the Sky in the opener of the 2021 season.

The biggest offseason story leading to the 25th anniversary season of the WNBA was Chicago signing the 35-year-old Parker, who played all 13 previous seasons with Los Angeles.

Parker, who averaged 14.7 points, a league-leading 9.7 rebounds and 4.6 assists while earning WNBA Defensive Player of the Year honors last season, hopes to turn the Sky into a serious contender for their first WNBA title.

"I'm excited to continue the next chapter of my career where it all began," said Parker, who was raised in the Chicago suburb of Naperville.

"It's an incredible story of a homecoming between a team striving to become a championship organization and of the best players in basketball," said Sky general manager and coach James Wade, whose team has reached the postseason each of the last two years.

Parker joins another of the league's best in point guard Courtney Vandersloot, averaged 13.6 points and for the third season in a row broke her own WNBA-record with 10.0 assists per game last season when Chicago went 12-10 and lost to Connecticut in the first round of the playoffs.

Allie Quigley (15.4 points per game in 2020), Azura Stevens (11.5 ppg, 5.9 rebounds per game) and a healthy Diamond DeShields are all expected to be key contributors for a squad that was among the highest-scoring teams in the league at 86.7 points per game last season, but also allowed an average of 84.1.

Washington has established stars making long-awaited returns. Former WNBA MVPs Elena Delle Donne (2015 and 2019) and Tina Charles (2012) returning to action after both opted out last year for health reasons. Also, guard Natasha Cloud missed the season as she focused on social justice issues.

Washington went 9-13 and was among the league's lowest-scoring clubs at 80.0 points per game. The Mystics still made the playoffs but lost to Phoenix in the first round.

Now, all three back are in the mix and Myisha Hines-Allen (17.0 ppg, 8.9 rpg) coming off a strong season, Washington is feeling good about a bounce back. Even if the Mystics, who won their only WNBA title in 2019, are flying under the radar to start.

The Mystics will be without forward Alysha Clark, an offseason acquisition from Seattle who suffered a season-ending foot injury while playing overseas.

--Field Level Media

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