2017 WNBA free agency: Sparks extend Candace Parker

Los Angeles Sparks forward Candace Parker, left, complains about a call to referee Roy Gulbeyan during the second half in Game 4 of the WNBA Finals against the Minnesota Lynx, Sunday, Oct. 16, 2016, in Los Angeles. The Lynx won 85-79. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

Wednesday, the Los Angeles Sparks made a key re-signing. Thursday, they made an even bigger one. If there was ever any doubt, Candace Parker will remain in Los Angeles for at least a few more seasons. Joining her (for now, at least) is a young guard having incredible success overseas. Meanwhile, Atlanta looks to continue to add to its own training camp roster.

Los Angeles Sparks re-sign F Candace Parker, sign G Chelsea Hopkins

OK, so this technically isn’t a free-agent signing, since Parker wasn’t actually a free agent.

Still, it’s hard to argue that the defending champions re-upping their franchise player and Finals MVP isn’t newsworthy. Parker is a player who needs no introduction. Unique in her ability to handle and pass the ball at 6’4”, Parker remains one of the WNBA’s top talents, and her re-signing means the Sparks will stay competitive throughout the duration of her multi-year extension.

Parker has set the bar so high for herself since her debut in 2008 that some would consider her 2016 output a letdown. She averaged better than 15 points, seven rebounds and four assists with a true shooting percentage of 53 percent; numbers that would be excellent for nearly anyone else, but were pedestrian for Parker.

Even so, Parker remained the engine that drove the Sparks’ success, combining with regular-season MVP Nneka Ogwumike to create a frontcourt duo that few teams could match up with. The results weren’t bad, either. It probably wouldn’t be inaccurate to guess that Parker would gladly trade decreased individual production for a Finals MVP trophy and a championship ring. Sparks fans should now be content, knowing that she’ll be in a position to do it all again for years to come.

With any luck, Hopkins will be a part of that. The San Diego State product went through a brief WNBA stint in 2013 with San Antonio, but hasn’t made a roster since. She’s having a season in the Israeli league that can’t be ignored, averaging 15.1 points, 10.7 rebounds and 8.9 assists. Hopkins has been demanding another shot at the WNBA, and she’ll get one in Los Angeles. She’s currently playing alongside familiar names such as Bria Holmes and Danielle Adams.

Atlanta Dream re-sign C Markeisha Gatling, sign G/F Whitney Knight

Drafted in 2014 by the Chicago Sky, the burly Gatling has already been around the league a bit. She was picked up by the Dream after being waived by Seattle and became one of the many centers head coach Michael Cooper relied upon after Erika de Souza was shipped out. A legitimate 6’5” with a large frame, Gatling is deceptively skilled on the low block, which surely pleases an old-school coach like Cooper. Defensively, though, she’ll have to improve her footwork and foul less if she wants more minutes.

Knight, who was drafted last season by the Sparks, spent the first portion of the season in Los Angeles before being waived. She then signed in San Antonio, but it was clear that the ex-FGCU star would need a completely fresh start.

Knight will hope to get that in Atlanta. With Angel McCoughtry sitting out, the Dream will be looking for additional depth on the wing, and Knight can give them versatility and length. After going from the best team in the league to the worst in 2016, a middling roster like Atlanta may allow her to carve out the niche she’s looking for.

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