LOS ANGELES-Whenever Candace Parker takes the floor against an opponent she usually has the advantage of being the best player out there. Parker has played dominant ball all season, edging her to the top of the list among most valuable player candidates.
There are a lot of talented ballplayers in the WNBA who deserved worthy consideration for the league’s high honor.
Minnesota’s Maya Moore has been playing lights out all season. Connecticut’s Tina Charles’ 18 points and 10.1 rebounds averages is no joke. Phoenix Mercury playmaker Diana Taurasi can get down with the best of them.
Chicago Sky’s power of tower Ellena Delle Donne recently picked up the WNBA Rookie of the Year award for her performance this season.
League-leading scorer Angel McCoughtry comes to play every night. As great as those individuals are, Parker is without question the best player in the WNBA. That opinion was solidified when the WNBA made its formal announcement of the award winner on the eve of the first game the Sparks played against the Phoenix Mercury in the best-of=three semifinal playoff round.
In winning her second MVP award, Parker (234 votes) narrowly beat out Moore (218 votes) for the coveted honor. Parker came into the league her rookie season and set the WNBA on fire, winning both the MVP and Rookie of the Year awards in back 2008.
Since that season, Parker has gone through a plethora of injuries, settled in her personal life as a wife and mother and went through the typical up and down adjustments of a professional basketball player. Whatever her motivation was coming into this season, Parker looked and played the regular season much like the same athlete who brought flair to the WNBA that had not been seen before.
And it started after a rough beginning for the Sparks. The Sparks looked pretty mediocre after nine games into the season, recording a not-so-cool-5-4 mark. Parker then went on a season-long tear.
She was named Player of the Week three times, earned Player of the Month kudos for her play in the month of July and was selected as the MVP of the Boost Mobile WNBA All-Star game after she scored 23 points and pulled down 11 rebounds.
If that wasn’t enough, Parker went out and lit up the Mercury for 28 points and eight rebounds in the first game of Sparks’ playoff series with Phoenix.
That’s some pretty impressive stuff. But what makes Parker special as a player you can’t find in the stat sheets. Numbers are cool, but sometime they can be misleading. In the case of Parker, they are not.
Parker, however, brings to the table all of the immeasurable attributes of a star that cannot be manipulated or duplicated. She is the real deal. It’s the hustle she brings night in and night out that makes her stand out. It’s the indisputable court savvy that set her apart.
She’s tough as nails. And she brings a presence to the court that clearly states she is the best player on the floor. In short, Parker has that “It” factor, the thing makes stars into superstars.
It is hard to fathom what position the Sparks would be in this season without Parker. Let’s just say, it wouldn’t be pretty.
Forward Nneka Ogwumike can more than handle her business in the paint. Sparks coach Carol Ross is a master motivator and game strategist. The Sparks also have their backcourt punch of Kristi Toliver and Lindsey Harding, players that can break things down and take over a game whenever they need to do it.
Parker, however, is the key to the team’s ignition. Her play on the court is what makes the Sparks go. Among some of the outstanding things Parker does with effortless ease is seeing the floor clearly, making the right decisions, play tightening defense and dropping the ball off at the right time for a timely assist.
Let’s just say that Parker is the glue that keeps the Sparks from falling apart. Sure, a lot of players might be able to do the same things. But Parker knows how to do them with consistency and with a dash of pizzazz.
For the season, Parker scored just a shade under 18 points and grabbed 8.7 rebounds on average. The 6-foot-4, 175 pound Parker also dished out nearly four assists a game and was among the league leaders in blocked shots per game. Numbers, however, don’t really do Parker any justice.
To get a true measure of the kind of talent she is and how Parker can impact a game, one would have to come down to Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles to catch a Sparks game live. What you notice about Parker are the little things she does on the court that lends credence to her as one of the elite players in the WNBA.
Those little things are about knowing and understanding the nuances of the game. Parker can get her points, but she doesn’t score to pile up big numbers. There’s the one bounce, no-look pass to a teammate for an uncontested layup that Parker can make regularly without blinking an eyelash.
Parker doesn’t just do one thing well. She does them all pretty well. That is what separates Parker from the rest of the field in the MVP race. There are the unspoken leadership skills she possess that go a long with her coaches and teammates. Parker looks and plays like she is the best player on the court.
This sista has real swag. She also got game.