Sky star Candace Parker navigates slumps same way she reacts to career highs: By keeping level head

Parker went 1-for-9 from three-point range in the Sky’s first-round series against the Liberty, which is uncharacteristic for a player who is a 33.3% career three-point shooter.

SHARE Sky star Candace Parker navigates slumps same way she reacts to career highs: By keeping level head
New York Liberty v Chicago Sky - Game One

Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Candace Parker indulged in a fun Friday night leading up to Game 1 of the Sky’s semifinal series against the Sun on Sunday.

No, she wasn’t on a rooftop enjoying the fleeting days of summer in Chicago or on a yacht in The Playpen. She was in the gym with her dad, wife and trainer.

Since she was a kid, Parker and her family would hit the reset button with trips to the park on Saturdays to get extra shots up. Those mornings playing one-on-one, 21 and other pickup games helped Parker reconnect to the essence of the game she loves.

As a two-time WNBA champion, a seven-time All-Star and one of the most decorated players in the game, getting in the gym with her loved ones is still how she resets.

‘‘Everybody has corrections and things they can do, but sometimes it’s just mental,’’ Parker said. ‘‘The ball has energy.’’

Think ‘‘Space Jam.’’ Except instead of the ball holding the energy of NBA legends, it holds the energy Parker and the Sky bring to the game each day. When one player is shooting well, it spreads to the rest of the team.

It’s hard to say Parker is in a shooting slump when she’s shooting 45.9% from the field through the Sky’s first three playoff games, but her three-point game hasn’t come around in the postseason yet. Parker went 1-for-9 from deep in the Sky’s first-round series against the Liberty, which is uncharacteristic for a player who is a 33.3% career three-point shooter.

But Parker navigates slumps the same way she celebrates career highs: by keeping a level head. She even goes as far as to watch videos of some of her poorest performances after her best games to remind herself of the game ebbs and flows of the game. She also does the opposite, watching clips from her best nights after games in which she performed below her expectations.

In 61 career playoff games, Parker is averaging nearly a double-double with 17.6 points and 9.2 rebounds. In the Sky’s first three playoff games this season, she has averaged 14.3 points, 11.7 rebounds and 5.7 assists. That is her highest assist average and her second-highest rebounding average in the playoffs.

The way she approaches any aspect of her game that isn’t working is by focusing on the other ways she can affect the outcome.

‘‘Next play,’’ Parker said. ‘‘It’s the playoffs. How many times do you get to play for a championship? The three threes that I take a game, I can’t let that impact the other possessions.’’

In Game 3 against the Liberty, Parker had 12 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists. She went 0-for-4 from three-point range, but she can handle that as long as her looks were good.

Parker’s formula for finding her shooting rhythm is the sum of many things. She’ll get to the free-throw line or go for step-backs on the block and extend her range from there.

Parker shot 61% from deep against the Sun during the regular season. She knows her three-point shot eventually is going to fall. When all else fails, nothing does the trick like a night in the gym with family.

‘‘I’m going to hit it,’’ Parker said. ‘‘And I’m going to keep taking it.’’

NOTE: Kahleah Copper and Ruthy Hebard missed practice Friday. Coach/GM James Wade said they were out with non-COVID-related illnesses. 

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