During her 15 years in the WNBA, Candice Dupree had never really explored free agency, which can be a profitable and ego-boosting courtship for high-valued players.
So the seven-time All-Star gave strict instructions to her agent before her first — and potentially last — time on the market.
“I knew teams were interested, but for me I was (interested in) money and winning,” Dupree said Monday during a Zoom call. “Those are my two big things. I’m not looking to go to a team and be the franchise player and play the majority of the minutes.
“It was pretty easy. It helped narrow down a lot of teams and Seattle was the best fit.”
The defending WNBA champion Storm signed Dupree, an unrestricted free agent, to a one-year, $170,000 deal, according to HerHoopsStats.com.
Acquiring Dupree seemingly plugs a gaping hole in Seattle’s starting lineup created when Alysha Clark left last week for the Washington Mystics.
Essentially, Seattle is replacing one of the league’s top two-way players with a proven veteran in Dupree, who ranks fifth in WNBA history in scoring (6,728) and rebounds (3,071).
During her career, the 6-foot-2 forward has averaged 14.4 points and 6.6 rebounds while shooting 49.7% from the field and 82.1% on free throws. Dupree also has been virtually indestructible while starting 468 out of possible 495 games and has missed just 27 games, including 21 in 2012 following a left knee injury.
“First-class organization (and) a winning organization,” Dupree said when asked why she chose the Storm. “Fifteen years in and looking at the tail end of my career, I’m just trying to go out with a bang. I thought Seattle was my best chance at winning another championship.”
Dupree, who was selected No. 6 overall in the 2006 WNBA draft out of Temple, spent her first four years with the Chicago Sky.
In 2010, she was traded to the Phoenix Mercury. During her seven-year stint, Phoenix made six WNBA playoff appearances and won the league championship in 2014.
Dupree shot 66.4% from the field in 2010 to set a Mercury single-season record. She also holds team records for the most rebounds in a game (19 on Sept. 3, 2011) and most rebounds in a season (279 in 2011).
During the past four years, Dupree played with the Indiana Fever where she averaged 12.5 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 30.2 minutes while shooting 46.2% from the field last season.
The 34-year-old Dupree, who has two little twin daughters with her partner and Connecticut Sun star DeWanna Bonner, had no desire to continue her elder stateswoman role with the Fever, which affectionately dubbed her ‘Mama Candice.’
During Dupree’s tenure, Indiana was constantly rebuilding while compiling a 34-90 record and never came close to making the playoffs.
After initial conversations last week, Storm coach Dan Hughes talked to Dupree about playing power forward alongside two-time WNBA Finals MVP Breanna Stewart and mentoring second-year center Ezi Magbegor.
Dupree also spoke with Storm star Sue Bird before finalizing negotiations with CEO and general manager Alisha Valavanis and signing last Thursday.
Dupree, who earned $119,500 last season, becomes the second highest player on the Storm behind Stewart ($190,550) and ahead of two-time All-Star Jewell Loyd ($121,500).
The Storm announced Dupree’s signing on the same day 13-year veteran Crystal Langhorne retired and took a front-office position overseeing community engagement.
Seattle is expected to re-sign Bird to a max contract exceeding $200,000 and designated All-Star forward Natasha Howard as a core player, which includes a one-year, supermax deal worth $221,450 next season and gives the team exclusive negotiating rights.
According to HerHoopStats.com, the Storm has about $364,000 remaining in salary cap space and it remains to be seen how the team completes a roster that currently has nine players, not including, Bird, Howard and restricted free agent Sami Whitcomb.
Dupree recognizes the Storm is in win-now mode, which aligns with her timeline and made Seattle a relatively easy choice among free-agent suitors.
“My agent was given strict instructions, unless teams come at you with a number I don’t want to hear about it,” she said. “I’m sure there were probably quite a few. He threw a couple of names out there, but I was like here’s what I’m interested in.
“I’m not interested in rebuilding. I want to win so that kind of narrowed the field a lot. Serious offers and inquiries only because I’m sure a lot of teams would love to have me, but I wasn’t interested in entertaining all of that.”
Dupree added: “I’m looking forward to playing with a group of vets with a high basketball IQ and winners.”
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