Candace Parker is all about relationships.
That’s a big part of why the 36-year-old signed with the Las Vegas Aces. Team president Nikki Fargas was an assistant coach at Tennessee when Parker played there, and she recruited Parker to play for the Vols. Parker’s wife played on the Russian national team with Becky Hammon. And Aces point guard Chelsea Gray and her wife are godparents to Parker’s son Airr.
The franchise also checks the box of being relatively close to family in Los Angeles for Parker’s 13-year-old daughter Lailaa. And of course, as a player, Parker was drawn to the defending champions.
“Las Vegas met all my needs from a basketball standpoint, and from a family standpoint as well,” she said Tuesday in her introductory press conference.
Parker signed with Las Vegas in free agency after playing two seasons for the Chicago Sky, with whom she won the 2021 title. Prior to that, Parker played 13 seasons for the Los Angeles Sparks, the franchise that drafted her first overall in 2008, winning a title in 2016.
In order to make room for Parker, a seven-time All-WNBA first-teamer, the Aces traded Dearica Hamby to the Sparks. The move garnered controversy when Hamby took to social media to make accusations against the Aces, claiming they wouldn’t have traded her if she was not pregnant. The 29-year-old forward stated that she was “lied to, manipulated and discriminated against” by the team.
In her introductory press conference with the Sparks, though, Hamby asked Las Vegas fans not to blame current Aces players for her exit, including Parker.
As for Aces management, they didn’t directly mention Hamby in Parker’s introductory press conference. But Fargas made a statement that seemingly alluded to the situation.
“All decisions that we have made to assemble this team by the front office is to assemble the best team possible,” she said. “When putting together a team there are times when a trade will happen, but that is for us to also remain competitive.”
The addition of Parker certainly makes the Aces more competitive, which is a difficult feat for a team coming off a WNBA championship.
The 15-year veteran averaged 13.2 points, 7.4 rebounds and 4.3 assists in her two seasons with Chicago.
“It’s going to actually be on her team instead of playing against her or coaching against her,” Hammon said. “Going into the offseason, looking at pieces that we felt like we needed to fill in order to defend our title, she fits the piece.”
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Hammon went on to praise Parker’s overall skills, basketball mind and passing ability.
“She does everything,” Hammon said. “So to be able to add, not just her championship culture and mentality that she brings in, but also the human aspect of it. I’m super excited to bring her into our locker room.”
Parker joked that playing against the Aces gave her headaches the last two seasons due to their overall firepower and ability to space the court. She’s excited to be a part of the system, and she expects to play several different roles for the team, depending on what is needed in each game.
“The evolution of what is needed game to game, part of what I want to bring is to fill that need,” she said. “If it’s defensive rebounding, if it’s facilitating, playmaking, scoring, whatever it is.”