Candace Parker Sitting Out Start of 2015 WNBA Season: Latest Details, Reaction

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistApril 9, 2015

Sep 21, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Sparks forward Candace Parker (3) dribbles the ball up the court in the game against the Phoenix Mercury at US Airways Center. The Sparks defeated the Mercury 82-73.  Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports
Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

Two-time WNBA MVP Candace Parker will sit out at least the beginning of the 2015 season, citing a need to rest her body, Los Angeles Sparks general manager Penny Toler said Thursday. 

"It was Candace's decision and she felt she needed to get her body 100 percent healthy," Toler told Doug Feinberg of The Associated Press. "She wanted to be the best she could be for herself and the team. What we're doing is supporting her in that decision."

Parker, who turns 29 on April 19, averaged 19.4 points, 7.1 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game last season. She is a three-time All-Star and five-time All-WNBA selection and has been the foundational star for the Sparks since arriving as the first pick in the 2008 draft.

In addition to her Sparks commitment, Parker also plays for Russian Premier League club UMMC Ekaterinburg. Like many of her peers, the overseas commitment creates an onerous schedule that more and more stars have considered scaling back.

Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi, Parker's teammate on UMMC, already announced she would sit out the 2015 season due to fatigue. For Taurasi, the decision was largely financial. UMMC, which pays the seven-time All-Star $1.5 million per season, told Taurasi it would prefer she scaled back her schedule to stay healthy. 

Kamil Krzaczynski/Associated Press

"Since 2004, when I started professional basketball, it has been a cycle, a cycle that I have enjoyed so much," Taurasi told Kate Fagan of espnW.com. "With my team in Russia, a conversation began about making sure I'm at an elite level for a long time with them. I put everything on the table and weighed all my options and made the best decision."

UMMC pays Parker $1.2 million per season, according to a 2011 report by Melissa Rohlin of the Los Angeles Times. By contrast, the WNBA maxes out player salaries at $107,000. Unlike Taurasi, though, Parker said she's not being financially incentivized and currently plans to return to the Sparks at some point in 2015.

"Candace told me this is not a financial decision," Toler told Feinberg. "She told me she's not getting paid at all (by her Russian club). She feels she would like to play 100 percent healthy and be the best she could be to have an opportunity to win a championship."

BRETT COOMER/Associated Press

Regardless of her motivation, the decisions by Parker and Taurasi set up a potential issue in the short and long term. Despite financial backing from the NBA, the WNBA simply does not earn enough revenue to compete financially with overseas clubs.

Six teams have folded since the league's inception, including the Houston Comets, who have a record four WNBA championships. Ownership issues nearly cost the league the Sparks until a group backed by Magic Johnson swooped in and purchased the team.

With overseas teams able to offer 10-15 times as much money as WNBA franchises, it will be interesting to see how many players like Taurasi and Parker follow suit. Young players who need to market themselves to the United States fanbase will likely continue to play in the WNBA, but resting during the season is becoming a trend for veterans with already established resumes.

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