Aces to sign Candace Parker, though it's hard to be excited right now

Aces to sign Candace Parker, though it's hard to be excited right now

The Las Vegas Aces just shook the league.

Months after winning their first title in franchise history, and with the backdrop of multiple star talents — Jonquel Jones, Natasha Howard, Allisha Gray — changing teams via trade this offseason, the Aces have made the first free-agency splash.

Candace Parker, one of the best basketball players to ever grace the planet, announced earlier today on Instagram that she plans to join the reigning champions instead of returning to the Chicago Sky.

Per ESPN's Alexa Philippou, Parker's deal with the Aces will be for one year. The signing won't become official until February 1 (Wednesday) at the earliest, which is when players are allowed to formalize new agreements.

In a perfect world, it would be easy to get excited about the prospect of Parker and A’ja Wilson — she played a role in recruiting Parker — playing together.

I don’t think there’s going to be a better defensive frontcourt in The W, provided both stay healthy. Wilson won last year’s Defensive Player of the Year award due to her work as a scheme-versatile anchor. Parker, the (controversial) 2020 DPOY, is still an elite defender in her own right. The amount of different looks the Aces will be able to throw at teams will be insane. 

On the other end of the floor, Parker remains a star due to her ability to operate as a hub. She can pry folks open with handoffs and screens, or even initiate some pick-and-rolls if you want to have a guard screen for her. She isn't able to toast bigger defenders off the bounce with the same regularity as her prime years, but Parker can still get busy in the mid-post or lower. 

This is a slam dunk on the court, but the on-court stuff feels secondary right now. Frankly, it’s hard not to think of Dearica Hamby in this situation. 

I don’t think trading Hamby, in what can certainly be viewed now as a salary dump, is a bad thing on its face. Heading into the offseason, the Aces had the least amount of cap space in the W, per Her Hoop Stats. In order to add reinforcements of any kind to the roster, there would have to be some sort of cap casualty — whether that was Hamby or Riquna Williams. Even after moving Hamby, the Aces ranked 12th out of 12 teams in available cap space.

It makes sense that the Aces would choose to move Hamby after winning a title without her being a major postseason contributor due to injury. Kiah Stokes filled in admirably, and the Aces ultimately won the title behind their small-ball lineups featuring Williams.

Sadly, it's hard to view this solely through a basketball context.

Not long after we learned about the trade, Hamby made a post on Instagram (you can read it in full here) thanking her teammates and Aces fans... and leveling some uncomfortable-at-best allegations at the organization. Some of the accusations include:

  • Being accused of signing her contract extension knowingly pregnant, without informing the team.
  • Not holding up "her end of the bargain," i.e. not getting pregnant during her two-year deal.
  • Not taking precautions to prevent pregnancy.
  • Not taking her offseason workouts seriously, in light of her pregnancy and availablity ahead of next season.

The allegations were so serious that the WNBPA immediately released a statement, saying they would seek an investigation into the organization.

The vast majority of players in the WNBA are black women. An allegation of a black woman being, in Hamby's words, "lied to, bullied, manipulated, and discriminated against" by management shouldn't be taken lightly. 

And if any of this is true, it's an especially bad look for the Aces. They rightfully made waves last offseason by hiring Becky Hammon and making her the highest-paid coach in The W. More pressing is the fact that the two most influential voices in the organization are black women: team president Nikki Fargas and general manager Natalie Williams.

How do you go about making things right in that scenario, much less recover from that kind of publicity?

Also, it's at least worth noting that Parker is a mother in her own right. She mentioned the importance of her family in her post, and how that factored into her decision to join the Aces. This isn't to suggest that Parker deserves any ire for signing with Vegas, because she doesn't; if there was foul play at hand, any criticisms should start and stop with the guilty parties within the Aces organization.

But how does Parker feel about the allegations? How much was she made privy to before agreeing to sign? It's fair to ask that much, though the opportunity to ask won't appear until next week at the earliest.

(Full disclosure: I plan to take part in Parker's introductory presser, either in person or on Zoom if that's an option. If I'm not able to ask Parker those questions, I'm certain another member of The W media will. At the very least, they should.)

Without the Hamby/Aces investigation being complete, there's only so much room to opine. What I will say is that this just feels... weird, man. There will be time for a deeper dive of the on-court fit, but I think we should make sure nobody was harmed first.

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