Candace Parker's Road to Redemption

UNCASVILLE, CONN. - In one of the most emotional moments to watch during last year's season, Candace Parker was in her mother's arms and in tears after the Los Angeles Sparks lost to the Minnesota Lynx in the playoffs.

"You work so hard and at the moment, it was that feeling of there's nothing you can do, know what I mean?" Parker said while relaxing on a hotel couch during All-Star weekend. "You put everything into it. The whole season, all the practices, everything is boiling down to that moment. And when it doesn't go your way, it's tough."

Last season was Parker's first full season as a player since her meteoric rookie year in 2008, where she became the first player in WNBA history to win both Rookie of the Year and MVP honors in the same season. Following that year she took time off to have a child and had a string of injuries that sidelined her for most of the other seasons.

The two-time Gold Medalist and All-Star said it was tough last year to come short of winning her first ever WNBA championship. She said she took her mind off the pain in the offseason to focus on another career goal of hers - Euroleague. Parker dominated the Euroleague tournament leading Russia's UMMC Ekaterinburg to a championship.

"In this offseason, I had some other skeletons" she said with a laugh. "Euroleague was my redemption. That was my way to take my mind off everything for a bit."

But once the WNBA season began this year, she started thinking about that Minnesota Lynx loss last year.

"As soon as I put on my WNBA jersey, that was the first thing I thought about, she said."

Teammate and fellow All-Star Kristi Toliver said the team used the loss as fuel to their fire this year, especially when they routed the Minnesota Lynx 87-59 last month.

"It was the first time we played Minnesota this season and we were very mindful of how the season ended last year," she said. "I mean they beat us on our home court and we came back (this season) and responded."

But Parker said the team didn't use the blowout as a moment to celebrate.

"Nothing we did that day was going to change what happened before," she said. "It is what it is. It's like winning the battle but we haven't won the war yet."

Parker is in midst of her prime playing some of the best basketball of her career right now. In addition to winning a championship this season, there's one more piece of hardware she has her sights on - the Most Valuable Player award. She said winning the award would be a redeeming moment for all the obstacles she's had to overcome in her career.

"As a competitor, of course that's something that would be nice," she said. "To come back from having a baby, to come back from as many injuries as I've had to do that. I think the WNBA is one of the best leagues, if not the best, in the world, so yeah of course winning the award would be nice."

Parker has always been one of the league's best players, earning both the Rookie of the Year and MVP award in 2008. But last season was the first full season she has played since then. This year, she's been able to step her game up even higher of a notch by making her teammates better and not having to rely on scoring to dominate a game.

"I've always enjoyed passing but before I was letting the game come to me," Parker said. "Now I'm at a point in my career where I can dictate the game. Dictate what the defense does and make adjustments based on that."

Parker said of course she wants to win a WNBA championship like any athlete in this league, but she is trying to stay focused on the second half of the season before she thinks about getting one this year.

"I dont really like to talk about that," she said. "Our goal this year is to be No. 1 in the West. That's our regular season goal. We're going to set our sights on a championship later on in the year when it's appropriate. But right now our goal is to get homecourt advantage in the regular season."



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