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Candace Parker Is the Calm, and the Storm, for the Chicago Sky

Copper and Sky Coach James Wade told reporters that Parker was the only player to suit up for Game 1 without pre-finals jitters. But Parker said that wasn’t the case. “I don’t care how many you’ve been to, there’s still the jitters you’re going to get, so that’s not true,” she said. But her experience in these high-pressure moments helped to her shake off the nervous energy.

“There’s no reason to flip out,” Parker said.

The Mercury jumped to an early lead and held a 5-point advantage after the first quarter. The Sky’s ability to stay calm, however, enabled them to stun the Mercury in the second quarter, when Chicago outscored Phoenix, 26-10.

Parker praised her teammates for how they have handled adversity this season. As much as the team learned about its potential from a seven-game regular-season winning streak, Parker said she believed the Sky learned even more from the seven straight losses they tallied while she was out with an injury. If the Sky could overcome those losses, finish the season with a 16-16 record, make the playoffs as the sixth seed, and make it to the finals, Parker said they would be able to overcome whatever difficulties the final brings.

“I think that’s the biggest thing during the playoffs is bouncing back and fighting through adversity,” she said. “I think we know our potential. We know how we can play and how we want to play, and we know our identity.”

But Parker’s familiarity with adversity precedes her time in Chicago.

Her blockbuster move to the Sky left Sparks fans stunned. Since Parker’s 2008 rookie season, when she won both the Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year Awards, her name had been synonymous with the team. And with Parker still playing incredible basketball well into her 30s, winning the Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2020 and helping the Sparks to a No. 3 playoff seed, the Los Angeles fan base believed another championship banner in the Parker era was possible.

But when the Parker era in L.A. ended without another championship, people needed someone to blame, and it wasn’t her. That person was Coach Derek Fisher, who infamously benched Parker during the deciding game of the 2019 semifinals.