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Sparks’ Candace Parker chosen WNBA defensive player of the year

Sparks forward Candace Parker steals the ball from New York Liberty center Amanda Zahui B. on Aug. 11 in Bradenton, Fla.
(Chris O’Meara / Associated Press)

Sparks forward Candace Parker was chosen Associated Press defensive player of the year Tuesday after leading the WNBA in rebounding. With 9.7 rebounds and 1.2 blocked shots per game this season, Parker anchored the third-rated Sparks defense as the team finished third in the league standings.

The Sparks open the playoffs Thursday in a single-elimination second round game.

Parker, 34, was also selected to the AP All-WNBA team, along with the AP’s player of the year A’ja Wilson of the Las Vegas Aces, Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart, Chicago Sky guard Courtney Vandersloot and Dallas Wings guard Arike Ogunbowale.

Wilson, averaging 20.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and two blocks, led the Aces to the No. 1 seed in the playoff, edging out the favored Storm for the top spot by a head-to-head tiebreaker. Stewart, who missed the 2019 season because of an Achilles injury, averaged 19.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, a career-high 3.6 assists and 1.7 blocks as she and Wilson were unanimous All-WNBA choices. Ogunbowale led the league in scoring with 22.8 points, although the Wings finished one spot out of playoff contention. Vandersloot had a league-leading 10.0 assists per game, the fourth straight year in which the point guard set a WNBA record for assists in a season.

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Parker, who narrowly claimed defensive player of the year honors by one vote over Connecticut Sun forward Alyssa Thomas and the Storm’s Alysha Clark, won her first league rebounding title since 2009. She ranked third in defensive win shares and fourth in defensive rating, according to Basketball Reference.

After an injury-plagued season last year in which she averaged career lows in points, rebounds and blocks, Parker entered the WNBA’s quarantined season in Bradenton, Fla., healthy from the long layoff. Four years removed from her first WNBA title, she channeled the advice of her college coach, Tennessee’s Pat Summitt, to motivate her resurgent year.

“Offense sells tickets, defense wins games, rebounding wins championships,” Parker said this season.


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