Candace Parker has a go-to answer whenever questions about her health arise.
“I’m fine,” she says. “I’m just old.”
At 36, she’s not old by a long shot, but considering the wear and tear of her 15-year career, she describes herself as such. As the years went by, so did her off-court experience. The 28.5 minutes she averages in the postseason is a fraction of what she spends per game. Ice baths and group therapy are offered, but Parker also gets acupuncture and massages and works with personal trainers outside of Skye.
As a result, she’s playing the best basketball of her career without even wanting to admit it.
“I think Little CP was more dominant,” Parker said Wednesday after finishing with 22 points, four rebounds, four assists, three blocks and a steal in the Sky’s 85-77 semifinal series win over the Suns.
In five regular season games, Parker averaged 16.8 points, 11.4 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 2.8 blocks and 1.2 steals in less than 30 minutes. In 13 WNBA postseasons, 2018 is the only time she has logged fewer minutes. It was in 2019. Her season-high average was 28.8 points in 2012.
She averaged more points just three times when she played five or more games in the postseason. That’s the second-best postseason rebounding average, and you’ll never average more assists or blocks in the postseason. Her 11.2 plus/minus rating is also the highest of her career.
“She wants to do everything she can to get another championship,” Sky coach and general manager James Wade said.
While Parker was helping Sky to even the series in Chicago on Wednesday, Serena Williams, 40, was in Queens, New York, where she eliminated No. 2 seed Annette Kontaveit in the second round of the US Open. Parker caught a glimpse of Williams’ match at halftime and drew inspiration from her performance — especially her mental approach. She joked in her postgame news conference that she can’t teach a dog new tricks, but she and Williams both learned late in their careers how to improve the tricks in their arsenal.
In Sky’s first-round series against Liberty, Parker fell into a three-point shooting slump and went 1-for-9. But her overall impact never faltered, and she averaged 14 points and 12 rebounds in Sky’s first three games of the season.
Her coach flew in from Los Angeles to work on the three-point shot with her in the semifinals last Friday night. She went 6 for 13 from deep in the first two games against the Suns.
“Even though she has less stats, she’s doing a lot of great things like being a great leader on the court,” teammate Emma Mieseman said. “I don’t think there are enough words. [to describe her skill]He said.
Like Williams, retirement is a topic of conversation with Parker. She will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. But unlike Williams, she hasn’t made any announcements about her future plans. The most important thing is to be mobile when her children grow up.
“I want to be able to win my son and daughter [in basketball] Until I destroy it,” she said.
Climbing is another priority. The reigning champion Sky are two wins from advancing to the WNBA Finals for the second consecutive year and third time in team history. It marks Parker’s fourth Finals appearance.
Coming off with back-to-back headliners might just be an outlet for her to play.
“It’s not fun if you’re not what you’re used to,” Parker said. “I think you want to leave before then.”