As the Sparks continue their perfect start to the 2016 season, going win for win with the defending champion Lynx, Candace Parker has made an otherworldly difference.
Just a year ago, L.A. started out 0-7, missing their do-it-all superstar for an undetermined stretch. (Parker sat out to rest.) The Sparks struggled to score and defend, reaching 80 points only once through seven games and averaging 76 points allowed.
Once Parker laced up her kicks for the final 16 games, everything turned around in Hollywood.
The three-time All-Star finished 2015 top-five in points (19.4, fourth), rebounds (10.1, first), assists (6.3, first), steals (1.9, fifth) and blocks (1.8, fifth), proving her immeasurable valuable to the Sparks’ fortunes. L.A. finished 2015 with their worst record (14-20) since 2010, when Parker played only 10 games due to a shoulder injury.
During this year’s undefeated start, Parker has been up to her old tricks, and L.A. couldn’t be better for it. The Sparks are now 20-5 since she returned to action on July 29, 2015.
Through nine games this season, the team ranks first in three-point shooting (40.0%), field-goal percentage (49.3%), assist-to-turnover ratio (1.60), offensive rating (108.9), defensive rating (87.2) and net rating (21.7). In short, they’ve played arguably the WNBA’s best basketball this season, marching toward a 10-0 mark matched only be the Lynx in 2012.
Parker’s own excellence has been critical to L.A.’s turnaround. She dropped 34 points in the season-opener, nailing 12 of 20 shots (3/6 3PT) and rounding out the box score with five assists, four rebounds and three steals. Her 45.2-percent three-point accuracy is a career-best, providing spacing for the league’s best offense.
Parker fits seamlessly everywhere on the court. Against the Liberty, she hit the boards vs. Tina Charles, racking up 12 in 38 minutes. When San Antonio’s playmakers, Kayla McBride and Moriah Jefferson, came to town, Parker dropped seven assists en route to victory.
The Lynx visit the Sparks in two weeks, paving the way for a potential battle of two undefeated squads, each with their own paths atop the Western Conference. As Minnesota defends its title, L.A. has turned things around after a few seasons of reestablishing themselves among the WNBA elite. Luckily, the Sparks have an all-time great to lean on, turning things around simply by lacing up her sneakers.
Once again, things are looking up in L.A., thanks to the perfect spark Candace Parker provides.