Sparks have dwindled their roster down ahead of season opener

Los Angeles Sparks Head Coach & General Manager Derek Fisher made some difficult but needed cuts ahead of the team’s season opener on the road against the Chicago Sky. (Photo by Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images)

A veteran center has their contract suspended as the Sparks have a full roster heading into Chicago.

As the 2022 WNBA is upon us, the final cuts have been made throughout the league before opening day. With a redemptive state of mind and high expectations, the Los Angeles Sparks are headed into this season with a group ready to establish themselves.

Through these last couple of seasons, the Sparks have been striving to increase the versatility of their roster so that they would be able to match up with different teams and become more efficient on the offensive end to mirror what they have been building on the defensive side within this new era that the franchise has embarked on.

“We have the talent enough to do it,” Sparks Head Coach and General Manager Derek Fisher said during media day last week, “But it’s not easy for us to put 12 players together and just go out there and win every night at a professional level or any level.”

On Wednesday, the Sparks got the ball rolling on the finishing touches on the roster to get it down to at least 12 players. In what was shocking but not really surprising, the team waived returning guards Te’a Cooper and Arella Guirantes along with Kianna Smith, the Sparks’ 16th pick in the 2022 draft.

Due to the fact that the Sparks brought in sharp guards like Jordin Canada and Chennedy Carter to fit more into what the team is building towards with their defensive intensity and willingness to create offensively, the three aforementioned guards just were not ready for this iteration of the team.

With those three guards waived, that brought the Sparks roster down a bit to 14 players and a few more moves had to be made.

In their formal announcement on their opening day roster, the Sparks revealed that Swedish center Amanda Zahui B.’s contract would be suspended. Fisher mentioned how difficult of a decision it was to do so but with a risk of Zahui B. missing over 10 games this season, it had to be done to make a 12-person roster.

“In this short season with any player that is going to miss [a] possible double digit number of games and last year with our experiences with Maria [Vadeeva],” Fisher said on Thursday to media, “We felt like it wasn’t fair to the rest of our players even though we knew it would be difficult specifically relating to Amanda.”

Vadeeva expressed that she would join the Sparks last season after the Olympics but that never came to fruition. With Zahui B.’s return date from her overseas play relatively up in the air, Fisher thought it was best to go with who would be fully available for the team this season.

The Sparks now have 13 players on their opening day roster, though 11 of them will be on the road in Chicago. Two of which are currently still away from the team.

As noted on the roster, Katie Lou Samuelson and Kristi Toliver are expected to return from their other obligations with Samuelson still overseas and Toliver fulfilling assistant coach duties for the Dallas Mavericks in NBA playoffs. Once they arrive, Fisher will have to make another cut to get the group down to 12.

With availability and health a big priority for the Sparks, having players ready for action for a better part of the season were factors for the decisions made up to this point by Fisher.

In drafting the former UConn player Olivia Nelson-Ododa, there was a benefit in having her youthfulness on the team with the possibility of the veteran bigs in the Ogwumikes or even Liz Cambage not being 100% healthy at times through the season.

Nelson-Ododa and Amy Atwell put on stellar performances in the Sparks two preseason games that left Fisher even more impressed to bring them fully into the fold. Rae Burrell, whom Fisher drafted at No. 9, also made the opening day roster.

Fisher also believes that with the personnel that they have added, they can focus on balancing their offense with their high level defense. Though it will be a bit tricky in doing so, Fisher wants to make sure that his players are more confident with themselves on the offensive end as they match their defensive intensity.

“We have to spend more time focusing on who we are offensively, in particular with the new offensive fire power that we have,” Fisher said.

Having a full roster with fire power on both ends of the floor will help the Sparks move towards their goals in this new phase of the franchise. How it will all manifest this season is going to be interesting to see unfold.

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