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Aces introduce newly acquired Candace Parker to Las Vegas

Updated February 7, 2023 - 6:58 pm

There were lots of reasons for Candace Parker to consider signing with the Aces.

From a purely sporting perspective, the two-time MVP and two-time WNBA champion was getting another chance to pursue a title. Parker joins an Aces squad stacked with talent. She’ll get to play under the reigning WNBA coach of the year.

But in the end, relationships drew Parker to Las Vegas more than anything else.

“From a basketball standpoint, it meets all my needs,” Parker said, “and then also from a family standpoint, it meets all my needs.”

Parker was officially introduced as the one of the newest members of the Aces on Tuesday after signing with the franchise at the beginning of free agency. She was joined at a virtual press conference by Aces president Nikki Fargas, general manager Natalie Williams and coach Becky Hammon.

“It’s nice to actually be on her team instead of playing against her or coaching against her,” Hammon said. “It’s going to be nice to have her in the same colored jersey.”

Parker’s connections to the Aces, the coaching staff and the players run deep.

She won the 2016 WNBA championship with point guard Chelsea Gray when they were members of the Los Angeles Sparks, and Gray is the godparent of Parker’s son Airr.

Parker played against Hammon for several seasons in the WNBA, while Parker’s wife, Anna Petrakova, was teammates with Hammon on the Russian national team. Parker also revealed she tried to recruit A’ja Wilson to Tennessee when the reigning MVP was in high school.

One of the most important relationships which helped sway Parker to join the Aces was her longtime friendship with Fargas. She was an assistant coach at Tennessee when Parker was a high school recruit and became a major factor in Parker’s decision to commit to legendary coach Pat Summitt. Fargas also babysat for Parker after the birth of her daughter Lailaa.

“I just started thinking more about what I wanted, and what my family wanted,” Parker said. “And that’s how we ended up on the decision to be in Vegas.”

Parker’s signing was possible because of the moves the Aces made during the offseason to free up cap space, most notably trading All-Star Dearica Hamby to the Sparks.

The two-time sixth player of the year made a statement on social media shortly after the trade, writing the Aces had mistreated her after learning of her pregnancy. The WNBA Players Association said it was seeking “a comprehensive investigation” into the Aces’ conduct during Hamby’s exit Jan. 21.

Fargas briefly alluded to the offseason moves and the Aces organizational beliefs in her opening statement Tuesday, but did not mention Hamby or the WNBPA by name.

“We will always demonstrate that we will act accordingly when you are discussing any situation surrounding the well-being of our athletes,” Fargas said.

Parker headlines a strong free-agent class for the Aces, who also signed veteran forward Alysha Clark and center Cayla George to protected contracts. Williams also announced the additions of center Kiah Stokes and guard Sydney Colson — both members of the Aces’ 2022 championship roster — ahead of Tuesday’s press conference.

Stokes, who emerged as a starter late in the season and played heavy minutes in the playoffs, will sign a one-year unprotected contract, sources familiar with the deal told the Review-Journal. Colson, an important locker room voice, is signing a one-year training camp deal.

Contact reporter Andy Yamashita at ayamashita@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ANYamashita on Twitter.

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