Candace Parker could be just the Spark the Sky need to win championship

Former Naperville Central star is a free agent and will help the championship-caliber Sky in all facets

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Candace Parker

Candace Parker #3 of the Los Angeles Sparks dribbles during the first half of Game One of their Second Round playoff against the Connecticut Sun at Feld Entertainment Center on September 17, 2020 in Palmetto, Florida.

Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Anyone who has followed the Sky over the last two seasons knows how close they were to the WNBA’s elite.

In 2019, the Sky were one questionable call away from the semifinals. In 2020, they made it to the postseason again — albeit, depleted by injuries — before losing in the first round.

The Sky needed a star to transform them from wannabes to the real deal. And with their All-Star backcourt duo not getting any younger and many of their core players on expiring contracts, the time was now for the Sky to take advantage of their championship window.

The Sky took a significant and historic step in the right direction this week after two-time league MVP Candace Parker verbally agreed to return home to Chicago this summer, league sources confirmed to the Sun-Times. The deal can’t become official until Monday, the first day of the free-agent signing period.

Parker will be the biggest free-agent signing in the Sky’s 15-year history.

Parker, who grew up in Naperville, is a franchise-altering player who’ll take the Sky from being an above-average team to one of the league’s top contenders.

She’s a one-stop solution for most of the Sky’s problems both on and off the court.

Though she’ll be turning 35 before the season, Parker remains one of the most dominant forces in the WNBA. Last season, she averaged 14.7 points, 9.7 rebounds and 4.6 assists in 22 games with the Sparks. She played so well that she finished third in MVP voting.

Parker should thrive in the Sky’s uptempo offense alongside Courtney Vandersloot, Allie Quigley and Diamond DeShields. The reigning Defensive Player of the Year should also fix the Sky’s defensive problems, especially down low. Last year, the Sky allowed an average of 36.6 points in the paint.

DeShields’ progression this year still will be critical to the Sky’s future. But the addition of Parker, a five-time All-Star, would alleviate some of the pressure on DeShields.

Furthermore, Parker is a household name and has been one of the faces of the WNBA since the Sparks drafted her first overall in 2008. She’s the type of player who fans pay to watch play in person. News of her impending arrival already has generated a lot of buzz.

In December, signs pointed to Parker re-signing with the Sparks, her home for the last 13 years.

Parker, an NBA analyst and commentator for TNT during the offseason, purchased a $4 million mansion in Los Angeles, according to multiple reports. Also, general manager and coach Derek Fisher explicitly said the Sparks wanted Parker back in 2021 and beyond.

Parker has had a rocky relationship with Fisher. And the Sparks weren’t able to designate her as a core player, the WNBA’s equivalent to the NFL’s franchise tag, because Parker already has been cored three times.

It was an “emotional” and “difficult decision” for Parker to leave, but she felt, at this point in her career, it was best for her to come home, her agent Boris Lelchitski said.

The Sky have about $250,000 in cap room, according to The Next’s salary database. Parker can’t sign for more than the league’s regular max of $190,550. It’s unclear what she’ll be paid, but Lelchitski said Parker’s decision to come to the Sky had nothing to do with money but rather winning a title as she nears the end of her illustrious career.

Parker’s arrival means the departure of free-agent forward Cheyenne Parker. The latter Parker, who’s coming off a career-best season, has verbally agreed to join the Atlanta Dream, sources confirmed.

This won’t be the last move for the Sky this offseason. They need to add at least one more guard who can back up Vandersloot.

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