Candace Parker is pulling double duty — Chicago Sky and TNT — while adjusting to her 1st training camp with a new team: ‘Sure it’s hard sometimes, but I enjoy it’

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Jamal Collier, Chicago Tribune
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Once the Chicago Sky wrap up their workout Tuesday morning, Candace Parker will board a plane for Atlanta to make it to her other gig.

Parker is an analyst for TNT during the NBA regular season, a role that usually does not overlap with her day job — as one of the best players in the WNBA.

However, the schedules for both leagues were altered by the pandemic, which means Parker is doing double duty. She’s working for TNT for the final week and a half of the NBA regular season while also going through her first training camp as a member of the Sky after signing with her hometown team in one of the biggest moves of the offseason.

Parker will work her final game on site for TNT on Tuesday before flying back to Chicago for Wednesday’s Sky workout. She also has been appearing on NBA TV, and her duties sometimes don’t end until after 1 a.m. before she has to be on the court by 9 the next morning, ready to practice.

“The coaches are amazing in allowing me to continue to do that,” Parker said this week via Zoom in her first training-camp media availability. “I just try to stretch, try to keep my body healthy, because that’s the biggest thing. I’m more concerned about that — the sleep, I’m used to.”

Parker will finish her TNT obligations next week just in time for the Sky to open the regular season May 15 on the road against the Washington Mystics. They have a pair of preseason tune-ups against the Indiana Fever — Sunday in Indianapolis and next Tuesday at Wintrust Arena — to give Parker her first opportunities to get on the floor with her new team.

Parker, who went to high school at Naperville Central, still is getting readjusted to Chicago after playing the first 13 years of her career with the Los Angeles Sparks. But there have already been perks.

Her mom has cooked her meals during training camp. She grabbed breakfast with her father recently, and he watches her dogs when she goes on the road for TNT. Driving down Lake Shore Drive and seeing Soldier Field — Parker said she is a huge Bears fan — gives her nostalgia.

“It’s just amazing from that point of view,” she said. “From the basketball, I don’t know if it’s really hit me yet that I’m actually playing for the team where I grew up down the street. It’s been special so far.”

Parker hasn’t even had the chance to practice with the Sky’s full roster yet. Because of overseas commitments, the team has been without its starting backcourt, Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley, as well as key reserve Gabby Williams during training camp.

Vandersloot and Quigley have arrived in Chicago but still need to clear the league’s COVID-19 testing protocol. Rookie Shyla Heal also is waiting on a travel visa.

But the players who are there have raved about Parker’s impact already. She has started to form a bond with guard Diamond DeShields, and the two have talked about their potential to form a dynamic pairing on the court.

“Candace has already been a player and a person that is willing to pay it forward,” coach James Wade said. “Sometimes a coach’s voice is too much and sometimes they need to hear from her. And the fact that she’s been a leader and had to carry a team on her shoulders for so many years, it only helps them out for players that are equally as motivated.”

Parker acknowledged the change of scenery will take some getting used to, but she was encouraged by her first few weeks around the organization. She lauded the communication from everyone around the team in helping her feel comfortable.

Until her daughter finishes school in Los Angeles and is able to join Parker in Chicago, she realizes she might feel a little unsettled, but she’s excited for this period to acclimate to her new setting.

“I’m able to really focus on basketball, training, what I’m eating, work and things like that,” Parker said. “There’s very few times when you get to this point in your career where you’re experiencing something new. So I don’t take for granted this new opportunity, this new experience. Sure it’s hard sometimes, but I enjoy it.”