Inside the W with Michelle Smith: Catching Up With Candace Parker

Candace Parker is spending her WNBA offseason not only preparing for her 11th WNBA season, serving as an analyst and commentator for the NBA on TNT and NBA TV. She will also be returning to her role as a studio analyst for coverage of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament for Turner and CBS.

Parker spends Mondays and Tuesdays in Atlanta, joining the “Players Only” studio show, which breaks down games from a players’ perspective. As more WNBA players explore their career options outside of their playing careers, Parker’s found herself in a unique place. She talks about her new gig, and the new possibilities it brings here:

How are you enjoying your work with TNT?

It’s great. I really enjoy it. I’m having a good time, learning a lot. There are worse jobs for sure. My home base is in Los Angeles and I work out of the studio in Atlanta, so I’m commuting. I work Mondays and Tuesdays, so I leave early Monday and I’m back early Wednesday.

How does that schedule work for you and your daughter Laila?

I’m able to drop her off at school on Monday and pick her up after school on Wednesdays. I used to have to travel on Sundays. Now it’s perfect.

How is this a different experience for your both in contrast to your years playing overseas?

Last year I was in China and the year before I played in Turkey and I played in Russia for six years before that. It was really hard, yanking her out of school all the time. She needs to be at home, so that’s how this happened. And I am starting to think about transitioning to life after basketball. It doesn’t hurt to start thinking about that.

Is this an opportunity to understand the kind of work you’d like to do after your playing career is over?

Yeah, I think so. It’s really more of an opportunity to do other things before you get pigeonholed. I also understand that by not going overseas, you can leave a great deal of money on the table. Doing this, helps you to grow your brand. Yes, I did give up a lot of money (not going overseas), but the possibility of a long-term opportunity for myself and my family, was a really good one. So I jumped on it. It was a unique opportunity with TNT and you know if you don’t do it, somebody else will.

How are you fitting in with your TNT colleagues?

Obviously, I’m female so that’s makes me a little different. I will say that I’m one of the youngest people there (laughs), so I tease them for being older than me. I feel like I bring a perspective on versatility. Not unlike a lot of the players coming into the league, I fit that mold of “position-less basketball.” I feel like I analyze the game a little differently. You analyze the game the way you play. I’ve played in that mold.

You can also take somebody off the dribble in heels. 

Yeah, that makes me unique too. It’s funny. The producer has been telling me, ‘Don’t wear heels. You are going to demo a lot of stuff and we want to make sure you are safe.’ And then that happens. And the joke is, that’s the thing that went viral.

What has been your approach to your broadcasting work?

Honestly, I kind of went into it like a rookie, like, “Tell me what you want me to do.” I will figure out what I like and what I don’t like later. I’m learning so much. I love the people. They are super passionate people who are good at what they do and they all want to help.

How is this matching up with your plans for your post-career?

I don’t want to be pigeonholed into just sports. Again, I feel like I’m position-less and versatile — that’s where my mind is. I never want to stick to doing one thing. I don’t think I have the attention-span to do just one thing. That’s how I look at it.

How is Lailaa enjoying her mom’s new job?

She loves it. She’s having a great time, coming with me to the studio a couple of times. She’s not impressed with my basketball job. She could care less. But she is excited to come with me to the studio. She likes to sit behind the desk. She came with me after Christmas and played “Uno” with Uncle Shaq. She loved it.

It’s a little bit of an adjustment for her when I’m gone, not constantly being there every day. I’ve told her, there are lots of parents who work from 9 to 5, who only see their kids a few hours a day. I’m here five days a week, 100 percent of the time. I know she’s well taken care of when I’m gone. I have an amazing family, and I don’t worry a second about her, and she’s doing great.

With a coaching change for the Sparks, do you think it was a good thing for you to be in the area during this offseason?

I think so, for a couple of reasons. First, to be able to get to know people. Behind everything is relationships and that’s something I learned from Coach Summitt. It is always a good thing to get to know your coach and your GM better and be around. Look at a team like Golden State. Steph Curry is a hell of a person and a player, but it can’t be lost that he has great relationships with everyone in the organization.

In what ways do you think it will be helpful that you are close by during this time of transition?

It will help with this change, to be able to be here in the offseason, to be able to be here at the start of training camp, to get this started off right. Everybody has to pay their dues overseas and obviously I’ve paid mine. But I’m really enjoying this time. Obviously, I want to win championships in these last years of my career and I think being here for the transition to a new staff is really important.

What has been your most memorable moment on TV so far?

I have watched a lot of the “Players Only” and I’ve worked with a lot of people who’ve done that show. But the first time for me, I was thrown into the fire. It was like “Let’s throw the rookie in and make something happen.” My first “Players Only” appearance was pretty memorable because I was so clueless. Between the cough button, and the directors talking to you in your ear while you are trying to finish the sentence while you are talking. The first day I did it was one of the most hectic days of my life.

Longtime WNBA reporter Michelle Smith writes a weekly column on throughout the season. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the WNBA or its clubs.