Los Angeles Sparks star Candace Parker will sit out at least the beginning of the upcoming WNBA season to rest.
“It was Candace’s decision and she felt she needed to get her body 100 percent healthy,” Sparks general manager Penny Toler told The Associated Press. “She wanted to be the best she could be for herself and the team. What we’re doing is supporting her in that decision.”
Parker, like many WNBA players, also plays overseas, essentially creating a year-round commitment to basketball. Toler said she wasn’t sure when the two-time MVP would return but she expects Parker back this season.
“She intends on playing,” Toler said. “At what point we don’t know. She has been playing year round and needed a break.”
Phoenix Mercury star Diana Taurasi said in February she would miss the entire 2015 WNBA season after accepting a lucrative offer from her Russian club to rest. Parker is on the same team as Taurasi, but isn’t getting paid by UMMC Ekaterinburg to sit out.
Top Americans who play overseas in the winter can make as much as $1.5 million. Top players in the WNBA such as Parker and Taurasi earn the veteran maximum of $108,000 for the summer season.
“Candace told me this is not a financial decision,” Toler said. “She told me she’s not getting paid at all (by her Russian club). She feels she would like to play 100 percent healthy and be the best she could be to have an opportunity to win a championship.”
Parker, who turns 29 next week, has spent her entire career with the Sparks since she was drafted with the No. 1 pick in 2008. She missed the first eight games of the 2009 season after giving birth. Last fall, she had knee surgery and missed the world championships.
“I totally understand her desire to rest. Clearly she and the Sparks have reached that agreement,” WNBA President Laurel Richie said. “When she is ready she will come back and we look forward to her returning with her great ability and energy to the Sparks and to the league.”
Her Russian team is playing in the Final Four of the Euroleague this weekend in Prague.
New Sparks coach Brian Agler has been down this road before. At Seattle, he was without star Lauren Jackson for long stretches because of injury or overseas commitments.
“Any time that you are missing a talented individual you have to make adjustments,” Agler said. “But I’ve always tried to look at the situations as opportunities. That’s the way I like to approach these. It’s an opportunity for Nneka (Ogwumike) and Alana Beard to put their stamp on our team.”
Parker averaged 19.4 points and 7.1 rebounds last season for the Sparks, who lost to the eventual champion Mercury in the opening round of the playoffs. She was designated as a core player by the team, but hasn’t signed her contract yet. So Parker’s salary doesn’t count against the team’s salary cap yet, which allowed the Sparks to sign Jennifer Lacy this month.
It also means the team and league can’t fine Parker for missing time. The new labor agreement, which was signed last year, grants the league and teams more power to fine players for missing time for overseas commitments.
“We have the rights to her and she can’t negotiate with anybody else but us,” Toler said. “When she’s ready to come back, we’ll make room.”
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