LOS ANGELES-You could feel it. From the opening tip to the end of Game 3 of the WNBA Finals. Candace Parker was looking to push the agenda for the Los Angeles Sparks. That’s not surprising.
This has been a season of mission delivery for Parker, who was bumped from the 2016 Olympic team roster and didn’t even make the All-WNBA team. It’s crazy to think that a two-time league MVP would get the shove job like that.
Well, that has happened, and Parker, whether she admits it or not, is making everyone else pay for it. Friday night in Game 3 against the Minnesota Lynx, Parker didn’t play as if she had a chip on her shoulder.
Parker torched the Lynx from one end to the other like she was carrying around a boulder. Doing her best impression of shadowing Kobe Bryant’s ‘you can count me out if you want to’ mentality in his swan song, Parker has been giving the shove to opponents all season.
For all the new, more hip and top trending players in the league, Parker showed that she is still the standard bearer of basketball excellence for the WNBA. Her game numbers of 24 points and nine rebounds in the Sparks’ 92-75 handling of the Lynx at USC Galen Center doesn’t do justice for the veteran center.
Sparks coach Brian Agler didn’t really know how to answer a reporter’s question on whether or not Parker was playing with a chip on her shoulder-in this game or any other game. But he did commend the superstar on the type of leadership she has brought to the team this season.
“I think you’ll have to ask Candace that,” Agler said. “I don’t want to speak for Candace. She’s had a heck of a year, not only as statistically but as a leader, and the thing that I’m shocked that some basketball people don’t understand this, is that how she makes other people better on our team. You can ask her specifically about the chip on her shoulder.”
The stat sheet is not going to reflect Parker’s activity on the boards, give an indication of her defensive prowess in helping the Sparks force the Lynx into 13 turnovers or track her gametime intensity. Putting points on the board came out of necessity, she said.
“That was a product of me being nonexistent in every game we played Minnesota this year,” Parker said after the game. “I went back and watched film, and my presence wasn’t there. We had a game plan of just going to the basket and trying to be aggressive. I mean, I myself, my teammates played well in Game 1 and Game 2, and we were aggressive defensively, but I was just there. We’ve worked too hard to get to this point to just be there. I appreciate my coaches and my teammates challenging me, and now we’re sitting here and going to Game 4.”