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Amidst the uncertainty of the global pandemic that has the entire nation on hold and the questionable living standards of the “wubble”, the Los Angeles Sparks find themselves at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, setting forth on yet another competitive season that may have them making a serious run at another WNBA championship.
The Sparks are returning their solid core of experienced veterans in two time league MVP Canadace Parker, 2016 MVP Nneka Ogwumike, All Star guards Chelsea Gray and Riquna Williams, along with four year veteran guard Sydney Wiese.
Rounding out the rest of the roster are a couple of key acquisitions in long time Minnesota Lynx Seimone Augustus, former Atlanta Dream guard Brittney Sykes as well center Marie Gulich. Rookie guard Te’a Cooper from Baylor, Tierra Ruffin-Pratt from the Washington Mystics, Kristine Angiwe of the Dallas Wings and Reshanda Gray from the New York Liberty complete this year’s team.
This season, under the watchful eye of second year coach and five time world champion Los Angeles Laker guard Derek Fisher, the Sparks continue to maintain their defensive tendencies with aggressive on the ball pressure, passing lane steals, and crisp weak side help rotations. They are ranked in the top third of the league in both steals per game and points off of turnovers while sitting among the top teams in defensive rating.
Offensively, L.A. resides in the top tier statistically as well when it comes to fast break points and points in the paint, culminating in one of the best field goal percentages in the league at 49.3%.
With a current record of 5-3, the Sparks will have to work on a couple of things moving forward, such as team rebounding and three point shooting. Although Parker is averaging 10.3 rebounds per game, the next highest rebounder sits at five.
As for three point shooting, the Sparks have traditionally struggled with inopportune shot selection, hovering at about a 34.2% clip in the last six games. However, in their victory over the Lynx, the team shot a scorching 59.1% from behind the arc, displaying promising marksmanship as the season continues.
Relying on the accuracy of Augustus, Williams and Wiese from the perimeter seems to be the key, as the Sparks continued their hot shooting against the Liberty, raking up 80% from the free throw line, 49.3% from the field, while shooting 64.7% from the three point line.
The play of point guard Sidney Wiese has been a welcomed surprise, notching her a position in the Sparks’ starting line up, shooting a red hot 56% from behind the arc. Three year veteran Brittney Sykes has also added a versatile aspect to L.A. ‘s starting five, as she has proven to be able to score, defend, or facilitate as needed.
Los Angeles possesses six WNBA world champions, two MVPs and several All Stars on their roster as well as a good mix of young talent that should continue to develop. The momentum of the season generates the continuity and familiarity necessary for coaches and players to start to define their roles offensively as well as defensively.
Aside from playing in one of the most unique circumstances of historical note, the Los Angeles Sparks of 2020 are looking to leave their mark as well.