Candace Parker returns to practice Saturday

Just when the door on Candace Parker not playing this season seems to be closer to slamming shut, it starts to swing back open. <p> On Saturday, Parker participated in limited drills at practice with her teammates, including shooting drills - she did short sprints and jumped - and some half-court work.

Candace Parker, who said after practice she can't get her hopes up yet, must still work her way up to a full practice - without any swelling in her knee - before she would actually play in a game.

"It was a surprise to me," Parker said. "Jenny told me I could shoot and then I got to run through some plays."

Jenny Moshak, the associate athletics director for sports medicine, had said Parker would be eased into practice once the swelling in her knee was resolved. Parker rehabbed only Friday, but after practice Friday, coach Pat Summitt said the swelling was down, and she was encouraged again.

Summitt reiterated Saturday that Parker playing this season remains feasible, and her debut could come as late as the SEC Tournament. Summitt needs two weeks of practice time to see how Parker's knee responds to full-court work as she doesn't want to burn a year by putting her in a game too soon and then having to shut her down.

"It's doing really well," Parker said of her knee. "I'm excited."

Parker said she would likely remain in street clothes on the bench during games until she knows her comeback is on track, because of the disappointment of having her hopes dashed in the past.

"I don't want to play that game with myself," Parker said of the emotional roller coaster of not knowing whether or not she can play.

Parker, who had knee surgery in September, practiced for the first time this season Dec. 26. She made it through a full practice Jan. 3, but then was stymied by swelling and hadn't returned to the practice court until Saturday.

She practiced for about an hour Saturday and continued shooting afterwards without having any swelling issues. Her shot was a little rusty at times, but she also went on some sweet shooting streaks and uncorked a pretty hook shot that looked unstoppable.

So what does this all mean for her future?

"It just means the swelling's out," Summitt said. "That's our indicator that she can practice. That's what we've been waiting on."

As far as Parker's practice performance, Summitt said, "I thought she was fine, considering she hasn't been out there. She's really a smart player, really heady so that fast-forwards things."

Parker will practice again Monday as long as there is no swelling in her knee.

"Jenny will let me know what she can and can not do," Summitt said. "I told Jenny I think we need to have her out there a couple of weeks just to know how the knee is going to respond."

So is it still a viable option that Parker could play this season?

"With a player like this absolutely," Summitt said. "You don't want to get her hopes up either. But you want to give her a chance. Whether she plays or not, she can practice some and get her in there."

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