It’s a new dawn for the Los Angeles Sparks as the training camp for this season has begun.
A mixture of old and new faces convened at L.A. Southwest College on Sunday morning to prepare themselves for the start of this upcoming season.
As new players and staff get acclimated with the returning Sparks core, the potential for how they will fare this season is high. Los Angeles has many expectations for this season and newly minted head coach, Derek Fisher is ready for this journey with these players.
“They know this game. They are very smart and high IQ basketball players. So I’m just excited that we have the potential to be really good,” said Fisher, “We’re going to have to work hard to beat, but we do have the chance to be successful.”
Along with Fisher and his new staff, there are many new players joining the Sparks this season. Los Angeles drafted two recent national championship title holders in Kalani Brown (Baylor) and Marina Mabrey (Notre Dame) during this year’s draft.
The Sparks’ frontcourt continued to grow this off-season. Not only taking Brown at seventh overall in the 2019 draft, but the Sparks also acquired Chiney Ogwumike from the Connecticut Sun last week. Both join a star-studded frontcourt group with Candace Parker, Nneka Ogwumike, and Jantel Lavender.
Alana Beard, Chelsea Gray, and Karlie Samuelson re-signed back with the team during the free agency period. Gray, Lavender and Maria Vadeeva were not present at camp due to overseas obligations.
Los Angeles received more guards during the off-season in Alexis Jones, Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, Sydney Wiese, and Loryn Goodwin. The Sparks also signed center Rachel Hollivay in free agency.
With a loaded frontcourt, the usage and management of the bigs on the team will be a task. The bigs on this team are all versatile and can be used in different ways that Fisher has schemed up.
Size and pace would not be a challenge for the bigs so it will be interesting on what Fisher has drawn up for lineups with the Ogwumike sisters, Parker, and others.
“We will see what Coach Fisher has in store for rotations, but I do not see that as impossible,” said Nneka Ogwumike.
Brown has been a stationary yet an active player in the post throughout her collegiate career. As noted during her time at Baylor, Brown can work the paint whether it involves scoring or rebounding. Parker functions as a point forward who can score and facilitate the ball when needed for the Sparks. The younger Ogwumike is able to crash the boards and score efficiently in the post.
The elder Ogwumike sister hinted that her game this season could be different. There might be moments in which Ogwumike may give fans an expansion of her playing style.
“I have been working on my game overseas, so we will see,” Ogwumike said when talking about what is to come from her this season.
Foes Becoming Colleagues
Two players that were acquired during the off-season have had their on-court battles with Parker over the years.
Jones was traded from the Minnesota Lynx and has been a formidable opponent during the finals battles between the two ball clubs. Jones was a player that helped seal the Lynx win with a flurry of three-pointers and gave the Sparks problems. Her addition to the team will be a treat for Sparks’ fans.
“She’s a guard that can really shoot the ball, stretch the defense, understand the game of basketball, and can play alongside Chelsea Gray,” said Parker.
During her time with the Washington Mystics, Ruffin-Pratt gave Parker problems when they would compete against one another in those duels. Ruffin-Pratt is a hard-nosed defender who will make an offensive player work to score.
Though expectations are high for the Sparks, it will still take some time for everything to fall into place. The chemistry was already building on day one of training camp and it will continue to grow throughout the season. The on-court chemistry might be weary this season as it is a given with a lot of new pieces but patience will be key.
With the Sparks’ goals of making it deep into the postseason, patience will be something needed in trusting the process that Fisher and his staff have in store along with the bumps and bruises that may occur.
Los Angeles will play two preseason games. They will travel to Phoenix to play the Mercury on May 11th and will play against the Seattle Storm at Pasadena City College on May 17th.
The regular season will open for the Sparks on May 26th in Las Vegas against the Aces. the Sparks will have their home opener against the Connecticut Sun on May 31st.