LONDON — With the Olympics in the rearview mirror, Candace Parker is ready to get back to work.
Winning another gold medal with the United States team has left her hungry for a WNBA championship – the only thing missing from her impressive résumé, which also includes two NCAA championships.
“I know my team’s been working hard,” said Parker, who plays for the Los Angeles Sparks. “That’s the one thing I’m lacking is a WNBA championship. My sights are already set on that. It would be icing on the cake to this. I’m going to work hard every day to put our team in position to do that.”
The WNBA season will resume Thursday after taking a monthlong break for the Olympics.
League president Laurel Richie took in the final week of the Olympics and hopes the league can build off the success that the Americans had winning another gold medal.
“I think we’ve been really encouraged by the viewership numbers,” WNBA president Laurel Richie said. “10 million people in the U.S. watching can’t be anything but good news for the W.”
Even though they haven’t had a break over the last month, it won’t be hard for the 18 WNBA players to change their mindset from the Olympics and get back to their teams for the sprint to the finish. Most WNBA teams have about 15 games left.
“It would never be a physical burnout, mostly the mental exhaustion you might feel a little bit,” said Seattle Storm star Sue Bird. “It tends to go away pretty quickly. You tend to switch gears and get right back into it. If I wasn’t here, the WNBA season would be going on, it’s almost more grueling. The WNBA season is difficult in its own right. I’d be playing either way.”
Bird said the month-long break came at a great time for Seattle.
“We had some injuries we were dealing with. Maybe we can do some things,” she said. “In the WNBA you just have to peak at the right time. Look at Atlanta the last two years they made the finals.
While Seattle is in fourth place in the Western Conference, help is on the way for Bird. Three-time WNBA MVP Lauren Jackson, who missed the first part of the season to train with Australia, said she will be back in Seattle soon.
The Atlanta Dream also will be picking up Erika de Souza, who missed the first part of the season to play with Brazil. Coach Marynell Meadors, who was an assistant for the U.S., was ready to lead her team again.
“I got to turn the switch as far as coaching,” she said. “Angel (McCoughtry) missed the last 10 days for us before the Olympic break and we’ll fit Erika in. They all think they should have the week off. We don’t have time for that.”
Like Meadors, Parker admits she learned a lot from her time playing with this Olympic team.
“I think I gained a lot mentally. I have all the tools to play basketball and do well and be successful. But mentally sometimes that’s more important than any physical skill. When I go back to my WNBA team, it’s more about leading by example and doing all the things that no one else wants to do. I just challenge myself to do that, hopefully get better in the process.”