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Women's History Month edition of NBA Mailbag with Candace Parker

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The NBA Mailbag is here to answer your questions throughout the 2023-24 season!  This week, three-time WNBA champion and NBA TV and TNT analyst Candace Parker takes over in place of Jamal Crawford for a special edition in celebration of Women’s History Month 2024.


With LeBron James becoming the first player to reach 40,000 points, who do you think will be the next to hit 40,000, if anyone?

– from Travis in Vacaville, CA

Potentially Luka, depending on how many years he plays. I would also throw out Anthony Edwards as a potential just because of how the game is played now – with more 3s and players having to score more points. 

It could be generations before that record is broken. The person that could break the record may not even be born yet.


You’re about to enter your 17th season in the WNBA. Is it possible that you’ll make it to Year 20? If so, what’s your approach?

– from Nala in Las Vegas, NV

I don’t rule it out, but I don’t look that far ahead. The older I get, the more I realize how important it is to stay in the present. I’m taking it one day at a time. I feel like I’ll know when it is over.


Which teams – one in the East and one in the West –  do you think could sneak into the playoffs and make a deep run? 

– from J. D. in Bennett, NC

In the East, I think the Cavaliers could fit that mold. Or, the Knicks, at least before they got hurt. Just the way they were playing both offensively and defensively, I thought they had a shot at the Eastern Conference Finals. 

Out West, I mean, you can never never rule out the Golden State, right? The Warriors and Lakers in a Play-In game, that could be a recipe for what we saw the Heat do last year. There are so many great teams in both conferences that it would take a little bit of luck to beat a team like Denver, OKC, Minnesota or the LA Clippers in a seven-game series.


What are your expectations for Philadelphia when Joel Embiid returns? 

– from James in Philadelphia, PA

I think there’s a big if on Embiid returning at all. Playoff basketball is different than regular-season basketball. If he does return, the 76ers have to give themselves a shot because they have one of the best players in the NBA. 

But I don’t know if he returns to the same Joel Embiid that we think. And with the injuries Philly has had to overcome this year, I think a second-round [playoff] exit is probably looked at as a positive.


What makes Jimmy Butler such a terrific playoff performer? It seems like he’s able to get to all his spots better during series than the regular season. Is that true?

– from Jason in Fort Lauderdale, FL

Playoff Jimmy is a real thing. Any team that he’s playing for, he always seems to raise his game in the playoffs. I think he plays with a pace and consistency and knows how and when to get to his spots. 

He’s also a guy that doesn’t need the ball all the time. His post-up ability is an undervalued part of his game, which works to their advantage in the playoffs when the best player is close to the basket and opponents can’t double because of Miami’s 3-point shooting. So, you’re putting guys in position to foul or defend, and Jimmy does a great job of doing both of those things. 


How do young playoff teams like the Thunder, Kings & Timberwolves factor into the championship race? What do they have to gain from this season? 

– from Joshua in Sacramento, CA

They’re playing with house money, so there isn’t a lot of risk. I don’t think anybody thought the Wolves and the Thunder would be a top-four team, let alone top two in the NBA. They’re going to see a lot of changes and a lot of differences in playoff basketball, all with a young squad. So, no matter the outcome, it’s beneficial because a team like the Thunder can go out and find the missing pieces since they have the Draft assets and ability to add to their roster and fix any problems.


What do the Bucks need to improve on to win a championship this year? And do you think Dame D.O.L.L.A. is an MVP contender?

– from Clayton in Memphis, TN

I think Dame is one of those guys that is trying to feel it out a little bit. But we know that when the lights are on and brightest, he’s going to come and perform and prove who he is: Dame Time. The Bucks just have to give themselves a shot.

In the past, usually a team that is consistent offensively, it’s the defensive end that needs work. The Bucks don’t have any problems scoring, but for them to be holding opponents to 13 less points under Doc [Rivers] as head coach, just shows that their defense is improving. They have one of the best records after the All-Star break and I think they’re getting back on track.


What do you think of Victor Wembanyama’s defense? Do you think he should be in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation in addition to the Rookie of the Year debate?

– Kelsey in Portland, OR 

Wemby is going to change the game on both ends of the floor. I think he has the potential to be MVP and Defensive Player of the Year at the same time one day. He’s proven just in the way that he anchors the defense, the plays that he makes, and his ability to switch and to defend out from the 3-point line all the way to the rim. 

The hardest thing is San Antonio’s record. When it comes to ROY, team records aren’t really looked at as much. But in terms of DPOY, that changes things. Especially when you look at someone like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who’s leading the league in steals, or the Timberwolves, who have a top-two defense in the league. There are so many players impacting the game statistically and have better records, so I think that hurts his chances this year.


What do the Suns need to do to win more games and avoid the Play-In Tournament? Who do you think they’ll play in the 1st round of the playoffs?

– from Karel in Phoenix, AZ

The Suns need to figure out the fourth quarter, which they have in some ways. There have been a number of games that they’ve blown leads late, or crumbled in critical moments because of turnovers. So I think they just need to figure out what they need to do down the stretch from an offensive standpoint. The bigger thing is they need to get healthy. They’ve shown what they’re able to do when their Big 3 is able to play together. Booker being out with the ankle injury right now hurts their development a little bit. 

I think whatever seed they end up in the playoffs, you want to avoid Denver in the first round. Period.


Which teams do you find the most entertaining to watch and why?

– from Tina in Fillmore, CA

I still love watching Golden State, just because of the Steph effect. I think Kevin Durant is just ridiculous, so watching Phoenix is always fun. Boston has been fun to watch as well. I’m a big fan of Giannis and the way the Bucks play. I’ve also enjoyed watching the Orlando Magic this year and how Paolo [Banchero] has developed.


How do you think Caitlin Clark’s game will translate in the WNBA? 

– from Braxton in Boise, ID

I think it will translate because I always say that whenever you can shoot, you’re always a weapon. We’ve seen Caitlin do that at Iowa, along with making those around her better. Passing is a skill that helps unlock different parts of someone’s game. And I think she’ll continue to do that when she gets to the WNBA. 

"That's what she's done for the game in general, I don't say Women's basketball, the game of basketball period. You always talk about Steph being a showman, this [Caitlin] is a showman right here." 💯@Candace_Parker has high praise for Caitlin Clark after making NCAA history pic.twitter.com/5NWV6QjcWF

— NBA TV (@NBATV) March 5, 2024


Who do you think is the next face of the NBA after guys like LeBron and Steph retire? 

– from Ricardo in Montclair, CA

Ja Morant, Tyrese Halliburton, Jayson Tatum, SGA and Wembanyama. I think those are all guys that are ready to step in and be the face of the league. 


Who is one “under-the-radar” WNBA player that you believe will go on to be one of the league’s top players?

– from Kyle in Allentown, PA

Rhyne Howard. She has a certain swag and ease to her game. She’s one of those players that just can flat out shoot the ball, so I think she’s going to go on to do great things in the WNBA.


What are your thoughts on the Steph vs. Sabrina challenge? Do you envision an NBA/WNBA crossover becoming a staple in future All-Star weekends and if so, why? 

– from Liron in Israel

I love NBA All-Star because it’s all about entertainment. I hope it does become a staple because on one hand, it serves as a way to amplify and raise awareness about the women’s game. But more so, the women’s game is helping the NBA on one of the biggest weekends as well, especially if you look at it from a viewership standpoint. I hope it continues and that they do more than one round of shooting.


What are some of your favorite/most important parts of playing lockdown defense?

– from James in Fort Lauderdale, FL 

Being fully engaged in making my opponent feel frustrated, that look you see in their eyes and forcing them to do something they don’t want to do. I also enjoy helpside defense and helping my teammates out, whether it’s taking a charge, blocking a shot or getting a deflection. 

Join us in congratulating @Candace_Parker on winning #WNBA Defensive Player of the Year! 👏 pic.twitter.com/okp0UvvPyt

— WNBA (@WNBA) September 24, 2020


Hi Candace, big fan of you and your career. If you had to compare your game to any NBA player, who would it be (current or past)?

– from CJ in Brooklyn, NY

I think I play a little bit like Kevin Garnett. I love the turnaround jump shot (right shoulder) just like KG. I can face up, handle the ball, switch defensively and I’m athletic enough to get my own shot.


Favorite NBA playoffs matchup of all time? 

– from Dimeetrik in Bronx, NY

Great question. The Bulls and the Pacers in 1998, that series was unbelievable. Reggie did the little nudge on MJ. I can remember the time, the place, where I was, what I was wearing watching that game.


 What’s your favorite NBA rivalry? Historical or current.

– from Kami in Atlanta, GA

I would have to say Miami vs. New York. You never knew what Alonzo Mourning was gonna do. Marcus Camby, John Starks, I could keep going on. But for me, it was just the height of what basketball looked like in the 90s and early 2000s.


Who is your NBA All-Time Starting 5?

– from Keonte in Los Angeles, CA

MJ, Kobe, LeBron, Steph and … Kevin Garnett. (Please don’t hate me, Shaq!)

.@SHAQ's reaction to being left off of @Candace_Parker's all-time list is pure comedy 😂😭 pic.twitter.com/C4LXvyvcN1

— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) March 6, 2024


Who is your WNBA All-Time Starting 5?

– from Thompson in Croatia

Cynthia Cooper, Maya Moore, Lauren Jackson, Ticha Penicheiro, and I’ll throw myself in there.


I vividly remember your 2007 NCAA Championship with the Tennessee Vols. From my perspective, I don’t think any woman player has ever captured a nation like you did, until now with Caitlin Clark. What’s one piece of advice you would give to Clark as the next steward of women’s basketball?

– from Joseph in Ventura, CA

There is so much pressure coming from all over. As athletes, we have a mindset where we are expecting so much out of ourselves with the amount of time, energy and effort we put into playing basketball. And most of us have had that point of view since we were little kids playing the game. The biggest thing is making sure that doesn’t change, even when there is so much more attention on you. Just go out and play basketball the way you know.


Who is your Mount Rushmore of Sports, women athletes only?– from Montae in Los Angeles, CA

This is really tough, but I would say: Billie Jean King. Serena Williams. Dominique Dawes. Mia Hamm.


What have you seen so far from the Basketball Africa League?

– from Abdoulaye in Mbour, Senegal

It’s unbelievable the amount of talent that is coming out of Africa. And it’s not because talent hasn’t always existed. Even in the Olympics, we’re seeing teams like Nigeria really starting to compete at a high level and win games on the biggest stage, which proves that talent is always there and it’s just about getting an opportunity to show it off.


Other than Las Vegas, which WNBA arena has the best game-day atmosphere?

– from Elijah in Brooklyn, NY

New York is always fun. Minnesota, too, especially during the Maya [Moore] and Seimone [Augustus] days.


Hi Candace. Do you have any advice for performance anxiety and caring what others think?

– from Jesiah in Tampa, FL

Control the controllables and narrow your focus. Pick three things that you want to focus on,  and then judge yourself on those. Whether that be your rebounds, deflections, intensity or just your overall energy.  

Sometimes, you just have to go out there and smile, and remember that it is just a game, literally.


When you retire from playing, do you think there’s a possibility of you becoming a WNBA/NBA coach?

– from Wilson in Las Vegas

Nope!


What would’ve been your profession if not for basketball? 

– from Kenoit in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

I love history. I always pictured myself being a historian or a history teacher. I love traveling too, and observing how different cultures operate. Like Anthony Bourdain did with food, that would still be my dream job.


Out of all the teams you’ve played for, which city has been your favorite?  

– from Danielle in Austin, TX 

My favorite city to live in is Los Angeles. But a close second would have to be Istanbul, Turkey when I played overseas earlier in my career. 

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