In signing Candace Parker, the Sky get it; some other Chicago teams don’t

Newly signed Chicago Sky forward and WNBA legend Candace Parker wants to be in Chicago, that much was clear.

From the Madhouse on Madison, to the Friendly Confines, Comiskey and Soldier Field, Parker wanted to play basketball in the city she grew up in front of and also groomed her love for basketball.

She’s so excited to come home, she even has her Portillos order at the ready: One fish sandwich with cheese, one jumbo chili cheese dog with no onions, one large fry, one chocolate cake milkshake and one slice of chocolate cake to go.

“I don’t know if it was ultimately about me, and I know it sounds cliche, leaving the Sparks as it was about joining Chicago,” Parker said during her introductory press conference Tuesday morning. “Coming home to play in front of family and friends, but also playing with a team that I can add extreme value to.”

Parker even sought advice from Dwyane Wade and Kevin Durant about free agency. They told her to follow her heart, do what you want.

Sky head coach and general manager James Wade did the same. He wanted to make his team better; he wanted to pursue a championship. So, he did. He reached out to a two-time WNBA MVP, WNBA champion and 2020 WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, and asked if she was interested in coming home.

Wade didn’t know if Parker was interested in leaving L.A., but reached out anyway. That’s what championship-seeking individuals do.

That “want” is why the Sky have now vaulted into the conversation as favorites to win a WNBA title. It’s also why the majority of Chicago’s professional sports teams are mired in a rut in their respective championship chases.

To understand the magnitude of the Chicago Sky’s signing of Parker, consider the franchise’s past. The Sky were never a real attractive destination in the WNBA free agent market, while the franchise’s two biggest moves were trading away its best players in Elena Delle Donne and Sylvia Fowles.

As Wade took over as the Sky’s coach and GM, the perception of the franchise has shifted with two-straight playoff berths and certified all-stars in Diamond DeShields, Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley.

Signing Parker was instantly the biggest move in the franchise’s 15-year history, and Wade spearheaded the operation. He initiated contact with Parker’s agent and had his players reach out when the interests were mutual.

“It just evolved,” Wade said. “Everybody reached out just to let her know how important she would be.”

Most impressive, Wade made Chicago seem attractive during a year where free agency has been perhaps at an all-time high in the WNBA. There have already been seven notable free agency moves, including Kayla McBride and Natalie Achonwa signing to Minnesota and Chelsea Gray heading to Las Vegas.

There’s a reason for that, too.

“Now, with the new CBA, there’s probably going to be a lot of movement,” Wade said. “I think it’s good for the WNBA.”

In the end, it came down to Chicago and Los Angeles for Parker, and Wade got it done. He got a defensive superstar to pair along side Azurá Stevens and Gabby Williams and an offensive weapon to pair with Vandersloot, Quigley and DeShields.

In the end, Wade got what he wanted, and what Wade and other Chicago pro franchises want are two different things.

Some franchises, like the Sky, White Sox and Red Stars, get it. They have made moves to contend for championships recently and are set up for success.

But the others, Bears, Cubs, Blackhawks and Bulls, have been left behind in their respective leagues as either pretenders or past champions that have no clear desire to win.

The Bulls and Blackhawks are in rebuilds, so it makes sense where they’re at. Both have skilled players, like Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, who have the talent to win games. Although, the Bulls are fresh off the Jim Boylen circus and the Hawks are missing Toews, and so many others, due to injury and illness.

But the Bears and Cubs are the prime examples of no clear and present direction.

The Bears have had no clear and present solution at quarterback since the 1940s and created more buzz in their season-ending press conference than they did in an entire NFL Playoff game against the Saints.

Except maybe when a player the Bears traded up in the draft to acquire got ejected after scuffling with a player the Bears’ coaching staff specifically said NOT to get involved with.

But hey, if you have a coach who hasn’t fielded a consistently competent offense and a GM who’s missed on three swings at the QB position, you got to keep that status quo going because the combo of the two hasn’t had a losing season.

Then there’s the Cubs. This is a team coming on five years removed from their first World Series title in 108 years with multiple MLB All-Stars and a former NL MVP on their roster, are just deciding not to compete for a NL Title, let alone a World Series.

The Chicago Tribune’s Paul Sullivan’s column about the “CubStop” explains this perfectly.

The most curious part about the Bears and Cubs’ current models are that both were the most recent Chicago teams to contend for a championship. The Bears’ 12–4 season in 2018 rejuvenated love in the Monsters of the Midway, while the Cubs were set up for multiple titles.

Both had excitement abound. Both just seemingly let it fade.

Sure, the cliche “if it’s not broke don’t fix it,” or whatever, exists. But that’s not possible in sports. The Lakers are fresh off a championship but still made trades for Dennis Schröder, Marc Gasol and Montrez Harrell. The Kansas City Chiefs still upgraded at running back, drafting Clyde Edwards-Helaire and adding Le’Veon Bell just because they could.

The Sky are following that same path, and they haven’t even won a championship yet.

Wade and his team have made that same move, but most importantly he had the blessing of the franchise’s ownership to do so. Sky majority owner gave Wade a lot of the credit for running point in landing Parker, as well as for building the culture the team has.

“It’s a reason why we’re so happy we extended our contract with him to be here for a long time,” Alter said. “What do we need, who do we need to make this team a championship team, and Candace’s name was at the top of everyone’s list.”

The majority of Chicago teams can take note while. If you really want it, you have to make it happen.

Just like the Sky did.

I’m a Sports Reporter from Chicago, working in the West.

Follow me on Twitter @OchoK_, and follow my work at The Spectrum & Daily News in St. George, Utah.



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