In 2008, Candace Parker was named the WNBA's MVP and rookie of the year. That's a league first.
But the Los Angeles Sparks's 6-4 forward who faces the Lynx at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Target Center, has not played a full season since.
Parker led Tennessee to two NCAA titles in 2007 and '08 and then made a sensational debut in the WNBA. She had 34 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists in her first game. As a rookie she averaged 18.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks and had league-leading 17 double-doubles.
In 2009, she missed the first month of the season (nine games) to get in shape after having a baby girl named Lailaa. Her scoring average dropped to 13.1 points but she still led the league in rebounding, averaging 9.8 per game, and blocks, 2.1.
In 2010, she suffered a dislocated left shoulder against the Lynx, and played only 10 games. Parker was averaging 20.6 points and 10.1 rebounds when she was hurt..
In 2011, she hurt her right knee in a game against the New York Liberty. She collided with Liberty center Quanitra Hollingsworth, an ex-Lynx, on June 27. The torn lateral meniscus kept her out 15 games before she returned late in the season to play two more. She averaged 18.5 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists.
This season, in two LA wins over Seattle, Parker is averaging 16 points, 7 rebounds and 3.5 blocks.
Here is how LA has done in the Parker era:
2008 20-14, third place in West
2009 18-16, third place
2010 13-21, tied for fourth with Lynx, won tiebreaker for playoffs
2011 15-19, fifth in West, missed playoffs
LA VS. LYNX
The Sparks beat the Lynx 82-74 in their WNBA season opener in LA last year, but the Lynx won the next four meetings. The Lynx's average winning margin at Target Center was 16.3 points.
The Lynx have won their first two games this season by 22 and 19 points.
In a preseason survey, WNBA general managers ranked Parker and Seimone Augustus as the co-favorites for league MVP.