Diana Taurasi re-signs with Mercury, Candace Parker joins hometown Sky as WNBA free agency kicks off
Alysha Clark signs multi-year contract with Mystics
Diana Taurasi is staying in Phoenix while Alysha Clark is heading across the country to join the Washington Mystics.
Both signed multiyear contracts on Monday, the first day WNBA free agents could officially ink deals. Candace Parker also signed with the Sky, returning home to Chicago after spending her entire career in Los Angeles since she was drafted first in 2008.
Welcome home, <a href="https://twitter.com/Candace_Parker?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Candace_Parker</a> 💙<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/skytown?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#skytown</a> <a href="https://t.co/itHhROQIjp">pic.twitter.com/itHhROQIjp</a>—@chicagosky
Unlike Parker, there was no real expectation the 38-year-old Taurasi would leave the team that drafted her No. 1 in 2004.
"As I've said before, as long as Diana wants to play in the WNBA, we want her in a Mercury uniform. She is the heart of our franchise, the first face on our Mount Rushmore, the best winner and competitor in the women's game," Mercury general manager Jim Pitman said. "The trajectory of our organization changed the day we drafted her 17 years ago, and we are excited she will be here into the future."
Clark helped the Seattle Storm win a title this past season, her second with the franchise.
"Alysha Clark is the ultimate competitor and winner. She is able to impact the game at both ends of the court as well as provide incredible leadership in the locker room," Mystics coach and GM Mike Thibault said. "There aren't many players as well-respected around the league as she is. She contributes to every phase of the game — an All-Defensive Team player, a league leader in 3-point shooting, a terrific passer and post-up threat. She perfectly fits our style of play. Her new teammates and staff are excited to get on the court with her soon!"
She's coming off one of her best seasons, averaging 10 points, 2.7 assists and 1.5 steals and shooting 55.8% from the field. Clark also led the WNBA in 3-point field goal percentage (52.2) for the second consecutive season.
“𝙒𝙚'𝙧𝙚 𝙛𝙤𝙧𝙚𝙫𝙚𝙧 𝙜𝙧𝙖𝙩𝙚𝙛𝙪𝙡 𝙛𝙤𝙧 𝙩𝙝𝙞𝙨 𝙚𝙧𝙖 𝙤𝙛 𝙎𝙥𝙖𝙧𝙠𝙨 𝙗𝙖𝙨𝙠𝙚𝙩𝙗𝙖𝙡𝙡 𝙬𝙞𝙩𝙝 𝘾𝙖𝙣𝙙𝙖𝙘𝙚 𝙋𝙖𝙧𝙠𝙚𝙧.”<br><br>Sparks CEO & Governor Eric Holoman & the Sparks Ownership Group on the departure of <a href="https://twitter.com/Candace_Parker?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Candace_Parker</a>.<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GoSparks?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GoSparks</a> <a href="https://t.co/70RWe5uamS">pic.twitter.com/70RWe5uamS</a>—@LASparks
"The love I've received since making my decision has been really amazing. Change is never easy but having teammates and an organization excited to have you join their family makes it better," Clark said. "I'm really looking forward to exploring D.C. and creating new memories with my teammates and the fans!"
Other moves on Monday included Cheyenne Parker signing with Atlanta and Jantel Lavender staying with the Indiana Fever. Minnesota signed Kayla McBride and Natalie Achonwa while Las Vegas re-signed Dearica Hamby, the reigning Sixth Woman of the Year.
Cheyenne Parker is coming off a career season in which she averaged 13.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game for Chicago. She started 13 of the 20 games she played in.
"We targeted Cheyenne for two reasons: one, her ability to finish at the rim, and two, her ability to knock down the 3," Atlanta coach Nicki Collen said. "Cheyenne has shown growth in her game year after year and we believe will only continue to get better. Her toughness, desire to compete, and her joyful attitude will only strengthen our roster. I'm thrilled she chose Atlanta."
Lavender was acquired by the Fever via trade from Chicago on Aug. 28, along with second and third-round picks in this year's draft.
From the court to the Chicago community, thank you for everything Cheyenne! 💙 <a href="https://t.co/aCxBFlmIYh">pic.twitter.com/aCxBFlmIYh</a>—@chicagosky
"We are extremely excited to officially welcome Jantel to our team," Indiana vice-president of basketball operations and general manager Tamika Catchings said. "Her experience on championship-calibre teams and the energy that she portrays both on and off the floor will be vital to our team."
The 6-foot-4 forward underwent surgery on the fifth metatarsal in her left foot before last season and missed the year. She signed a multiyear deal Monday.
Allisha Gray re-signed with the Dallas Wings. Gray was the league's rookie of the year in 2017. She averaged a career-high 13.1 points last season. Seattle also is bringing back guard Epiphanny Prince.