AP Basketball Writer
NEW YORK (AP) – It took Candace Parker nearly a decade to win a WNBA championship. Now the Los Angeles Sparks will try to make sure she’s there to enjoy another celebration of last season’s title.
The Sparks postponed their ring ceremony a week because Parker, Jantel Lavender and Essence Carson are still playing overseas in the Turkish League finals.
“I’m glad they’ll be able to be a part of it,” Sparks coach Brian Agler said.
The team was originally going to have the ceremony on Saturday when the Sparks opened their season against Seattle in a nationally televised game. Now Los Angeles will hold it before the game against Washington on May 19. The Sparks trio should be back for that game.
“We have always supported the WNBA athletes who play overseas during our offseason, and there are times when select players will miss a few games,” WNBA President Lisa Borders said. “I am looking forward to taking part in the Los Angeles Sparks’ championship ring ceremony on May 19.”
By moving the ceremony back a week, the Sparks will also be able to give Kristi Toliver her ring. The talented guard left the team to go to Washington in free agency in the offseason.
Los Angeles isn’t the only team missing players to start the season. Chicago is without Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley while San Antonio doesn’t have Kayla McBride. All three are still playing in Turkey.
The Turkish playoffs aren’t the only time that WNBA players will miss games this season because of overseas commitments. Vandersloot will also miss time in June as she plays for Hungary at the EuroBasket tournament. She’s one of a handful of WNBA players who will leave for that tournament. The top five teams qualify for next year’s women’s basketball World Cup.
Washington will be without young star Emma Meesseman, who will be playing for Belgium.
New York will lose Kia Vaughn (Czech Republic) and Epiphanny Prince (Russia).
“I get players having to play overseas to enhance their income,” New York Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer said. “I get players having dual passports. I don’t get them missing training camp or the opening of the season.”
There are also World Cup qualifying tournaments in Asia and the Americas that could take players away.
In the past teams could fine players for missing time, but that was amended last May in a deal between the players union and the league. Now players won’t be fined if they give their teams advanced notice.
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