The Las Vegas Aces announced late on Monday that Candace Parker will be out indefinitely after undergoing surgery to repair her fractured foot. Parker had been playing with the injury all season, but after recent consultation with doctors it was determined that she needed surgery to protect her long-term health.
Parker released a statement on her Instagram story confirming the news.
"Earlier today, I underwent surgery on a fracture in my foot, Parker wrote. "I've been playing on a fracture all season, tolerating the pain, but after consulting with doctors, the only option for me to be healthy again and avoid further injury was to elect for surgery.
"I'll rehab and work my way towards being healthy as soon as possible. For my teammates; for my circle; for my family; for myself."
The two-time MVP stunned the WNBA world by signing with the Aces in free agency last offseason, and while she hasn't put up huge numbers -- through 18 games, she was averaging nine points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.5 steals per game on 46.5% shooting -- her presence on both sides of the ball had helped elevate the defending champions to a historic level.
Entering Tuesday, the Aces are on a five-game winning streak in which they've won every game by at least 15 points, and are 21-2, which is tied for the best record in league history through 23 games with the 1998 Houston Comets and 2010 Seattle Storm. (Both of those teams went on to win the title.) In addition, the Aces' 114.1 offensive rating and plus-19.2 net rating are both on pace to be the best the league has ever seen.
The Aces were a great team last season -- they lost just two playoff games en route to the first title in franchise history -- but with Parker they were borderline unfair. Offensively, her versatility and selflessness made her a perfect fit that supercharged the Aces' already electric offense. With Parker added to the starting lineup, they had five All-Star-level players who could shoot, pass and make decisions with the ball. That primary starting lineup boasted a 116 offensive rating, a 66.8% assist ratio and just a 12.7% turnover ratio.
Defensively, though, is where Parker made the biggest impact. The former Defensive Player of the Year might not be quite as athletic as she once was, but she's still a big, physical presence and one of the smartest players in the league on that side of the ball. And the standard she helped set was perhaps even more important than her actual defensive skills. The Aces were just OK defensively last season, and often relied on outscoring their opponents. Not so this summer, as Parker helped fulfill head coach Becky Hammon's vision to turn the Aces into a strong defensive unit. They rank first in the league, allowing just 94.9 points per 100 possessions, and while they still will outscore other teams, they no longer have to.
It's unclear when or if Parker may be back. There's less than two months until the regular season ends on Sept. 10, and just under three months until the final possible Finals date on Oct. 20. You would bet on the Aces to make a long playoff run, but that still doesn't leave much time for Parker to get through a recovery and rehab process, especially with a foot injury.
The Aces are still a terrific team without Parker. They have the reigning MVP and Defensive Player of the Year in A'ja Wilson, the reigning Finals MVP in Chelsea Gray and two other All-Stars in Jackie Young and Kelsey Plum. In 128 minutes with Kiah Stokes playing with that group instead of Parker, they have a staggering plus-30.2 net rating, which is even better than the plus-23.9 mark with Parker.
There's a very good chance the Aces will still win the title even if Parker doesn't return, but without the future Hall of Famer they have less margin for error.