"Shelden and I are thrilled," said Parker in a statement released by Mary Ford of Goodwin Sports Management, the couple's publicist. "This is such a life-changing moment for us; we feel blessed to have a healthy and beautiful baby girl."
Baby Girl Parker-Williams, the power couple's first child, weighed in at 7 pounds, 6 ounces and 20 inches in length. She does have a name, Ford informed Full Court, but "at this time [Candace and Shelden] wnt to share the news with family members and close friends before revealing." There were no complications with the delivery and both Parker and daughter are doing fine, Ford added.
What most fans of the WNBA want to know almost as much as the baby's name and when a photo will be released (none were available at the time this report was published), is when Parker will be able to return to the Sparks, whose training camp opens this Sunday, May 17. The Sparks will have only two weeks to prepare before they meet the Connecticut Sun on May 31 in the only pre-season game on their schedule. LA takes on long-time nemesis and 2008 WNBA Champion, the Detroit Shock, just six days later in their June 6 regular-season home opener at Staples Center.
Parker says she plans to rejoin the Sparks once she has received clearance from her physician. She was working out up until the eve of delivery, both in order to ensure a healthy infant and to expedite her return to the court. Indeed, only two weeks ago, on April 25, Parker joined Sparks Head Coach Michael Cooper led a crowd of 5,000 in the 3.2 March for Babies in Los Angeles, a fundraising effort for the March of Dimes.
Exactly how long it will take Parker to recover is anyone's guess, but the Sparks have stocked up with front court talent in an effort to fill the void, albeit temporarily. In addition to the Sparks' keystone player Lisa Leslie, who will retire at the end of this season, Los Angeles acquired Leslie's former high school, USC and Olympic teammate, former Houston Comets' superstar Tina Thompson, in the off-season. Defensive star and fellow Olympian Delisha Milton-Jones is back, and draftees Ashley Paris and Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton will be battling it out with Vanessa Hayden (acquired in a trade for back-up center Christi Thomas) and veteran reserve forward-center Jessica Moore for a spot in the line-up.
Still, it is an understatement to say that Parker is not fungible. She averaged nearly a double-double last year in her rookie season (18.5 ppg, 9.5 rbg), leading the WNBA in rebounding. Her performance vaulted her to both 2008 WNBA Rookie-of-the-Year and Most Valuable Player honors, the first time in the 12-year history of the league that a rookie captured both awards. (Yolanda Griffith took both home both the MVP and the Newcomer-of-the-Year awards (as well as Defensive Player of the Year honors) when she entered the league in 1999, but was not a true rookie, having played in the ABL from 1997-1998 and prior to that in the professional leagues in Europe.)
Los Angeles season ticket holders have a heavily back-loaded schedule: The Sparks have just three home games scheduled in the month of June and only one home game in July, with the bulk of their at-home schedule coming in August (10 home games) and September (three home games). It's a schedule that might not have been designed for that reason, but one that should give Sparks fans the best possible chance of seeing Parker in action, together with Leslie, should the team's newest mom be able to return to the court this season. (On the other hand, what the unbalanced schedule with its heavy road travel in the first half of the season will due to the team's playoff hopes is quite a different question.