Candace Parker and the Chicago Sky will launch the defense of their WNBA title Friday night when the Los Angeles Sparks visit for both teams’ season opener.

And to hear the 36-year-old Parker tell it, she’s just as excited for the 15th year of her career as she was for the first after graduating from Tennessee in 2008.

“I think just being back and seeing the excitement around the season definitely motivates me to continue to work hard,” Parker said. “And, you know, I think last year was amazing and to be able to come back and to do it with a similar group this year in terms of competing … I’m excited about it.”

Indeed, Chicago focused its offseason on keeping its core group together, although it did add scoring center Emma Meesseman from Washington. A former WNBA Finals Most Valuable Player in 2019, Meesseman gives the Sky three former Finals MVPs on their roster, joining Parker (2016) and Kahleah Copper, who earned the honors in 2021.

Chicago brought back both starting guards, Courtney Vandersloot and Copper, as well as sharp-shooting reserve Allie Quigley. The Fire return four of the five players who averaged in double figures in scoring a season ago — losing only guard Diamond DeShields to the Phoenix Mercury.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles is coming off a disappointing season that saw it miss the playoffs. The Sparks simply didn’t have enough firepower offensively to go along with their scrappy defense.

General manager/coach Derek Fisher sought to change that this offseason. Adding Las Vegas center Liz Cambage in free agency gives the team the post threat it needed. Cambage scored 14.2 points and grabbed 8.2 boards per game last season, although she wasn’t the Aces’ No. 1 option with A’ja Wilson on the roster.

Los Angeles added help on the perimeter by picking up 3-point shooter Katie Lou Samuelson along with Chennedy Carter. The Sparks also signed Jordin Canada, last with Seattle, in a move that should give them better depth in the backcourt and a capable scorer off the bench.

“Crowd’s gonna be lit, building’s gonna be lit, women’s basketball gonna be lit,” Cambage said. “It’s gonna be the most wild summer WNBA’s ever seen — that’s how I think this summer’s gonna go.

“And we’re gonna have a ring at the end of it.”

–Field Level Media