| 2006 Record|
(1st in West)
Award Winners & Honorees
2006 Draft Recap
Dispersal Draft Results
Team leader Lisa Leslie was more than just a simple Spark. Her season-long performance was more like an entire fireworks display. She led her team with 20 ppg, good enough for third in the league. Defensively, she ranked third in the league in rebounds per game (9.5) and fourth in blocks per game (1.68). She led the Sparks in all of those categories as well. She also became the first player in WNBA history to reach 5,000 career points.
Recognized by coaches for her excellent play, she was chosen as an All-Star reserve for the West and was named to the All-Defensive Team, All-WNBA First Team and All-Decade Team. But the biggest prize of all was her Most Valuable Player Award, the third of her career. Leslie became only the second player, after Sheryl Swoopes, to win the honor three times.
But Leslie will be the first to admit that she could not do it alone. The Sparks brought in a number of new players, including point guard Temeka Johnson, and their chemistry was tremendous. Leslie was surrounded by a number of players 10 years her junior and had as much fun as in any other year of her illustrious career. Coach Joe Bryant deserves a great deal of credit for getting all of the pieces to fit together and work.
Early on in the season, forward Chamique Holdsclaw left the team for two weeks due to an illness in the family. Despite her 15 ppg when she returned, Holdsclaw's absence put more pressure on her teammates. Yet they learned early on that they could win both with and without her in the lineup.
The Sparks came into the postseason as a favorite to win it all and bested a tough Seattle Storm team in a close opening-round series. But with an injury to Holdsclaw, the Sparks were easily disposed of by the Monarchs in the Western Conference Finals. Not even an MVP effort from Leslie could get her young team past the proven veterans in Sacramento. The team got it done in the regular season, but just seemed to lose its spark when it mattered most.
|Head Coach |
2006 Starting Lineup
-G- Temeka Johnson
-G- Tamara Moore
-F- Mwadi Mabika
-F- Chamique Holdsclaw
-C- Lisa Leslie
Key 2006 Reserves
Can the Sparks win without the cornerstone of their franchise? Lisa Leslie will miss the 2007 season as she is currently pregnant with her first child (due in June). The Sparks home court is named after Leslie because when she is on it, she owns it. Of course, Leslie will still attend games as a fan, but her absence in the lineup raises one of the biggest questions of the WNBA season.
An investment group led by Katherine Goodman and Carla Christofferson is hoping that the Sparks will remain a top team. They bought the team from the Buss family in the offseason.
"Rather than retain ownership and have operations of the team in non-family hands, we decided that the sale to new and committed ownership would be in the team's best interest," outgoing team president Johnny Buss explained.
In order to prepare for the upcoming season, the Sparks made a number of moves. The biggest was an offseason trade with the Connecticut Sun that brought veteran Taj McWilliams Franklin to Hollywood in exchange for Erika De Souza and the 12th pick in the upcoming Draft. Losing Leslie means a drop in points and rebounds. Yet McWilliams-Franklin was second in the league in rebounding in 2006 with 9.6 per game and finished the year with 12.8 ppg. She also brings great experience and unrivaled leadership.
The Sparks also signed Gwen Jackson, Sheila Lambert, Edniesha Curry, Kaayla Chones, Nyree Roberts and Brandy Reed and re-signed forward Chamique Holdsclaw. Holdsclaw is another key veteran who can help fill the void left by Leslie's absence. She ranks fifth in total points (3,896), sixth in ppg (17.7), fourth in total rebounds (1,834) and fourth in rpg (8.3) in WNBA history. She is an offensive threat and could return to the top of the scoring stat leaders list in 2007.
The Sting Dispersal Draft gave the Sparks another new forward, Ayana Walker. Walker averaged 2.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists in 2006. She came off the bench in Charlotte and will most likely have a similar role in Hollywood. The Sparks also reached across the ocean to sign Spanish guard Marta Fernandez. The 5-11 shooting guard played was named Player of the Year in the Spanish women's league this past season.
So while Lisa Leslie is a one-of-a-kind superstar and cannot be replaced, the show must go on. It is up to Coach Joe Bryant to ignite the Sparks once again while their brightest flame is out.