10-24, .294 (T-6th in West)
2007 Starting Lineup
2007 Key Reserves
2007 Draft Recap
2008 Key Additions
2008 Key Losses
The 2007 season saw the return of Michael Cooper – who led Los Angeles to back-to-back championships in 2001 and 2002 – to the Sparks sideline. However, the season will be remembered most for who was not on the court, rather than who was. Injury, motherhood and a sudden retirement took three of the Sparks’ top players off of the floor and left Cooper scrambling to find a lineup that could compete on a nightly basis. The result was a dramatic fall from a team that won a Western Conference-best 25 games in 2006 to a league-worst record of 10-24 in 2007.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
With so many of its core players out of the lineup, opportunities arose for young players to step up and make a name for themselves throughout the season. A pair of rookies – Marta Fernandez and Sidney Spencer – took full advantage of this opportunity and provided the Sparks with a silver lining to an otherwise frustrating season.
Spencer, who came to the Sparks after winning a national championship with Tennessee, was inserted into the starting lineup for 22 of the Sparks’ 34 games and responded by averaging 9.6 points and 4.1 rebounds, while shooting an impressive 43.9 percent shooting from 3-point range. Fernandez, a 27-year-old import from Spain, started 20 games for the Sparks in 2007 and put up averages of 8.7 points and 3.0 assists.
The return of Michael Cooper was also highly beneficial to the squad. Having won in the past as a player and a coach, he brought knowledge and experience to the squad. Intense and competitive, the team played with dignity and individual players improved throughout the season.
WHAT WENT WRONG
The Sparks knew going into the 2007 season that they would be without Lisa Leslie, a three-time WNBA MVP, seven-time WNBA All-Star and the face of the franchise. What they did not expect was to be without starting point guard Tamecka Johnson for most of the season or the sudden retirement of four-time All-Star Chamique Holdsclaw.
Leslie, who welcomed her first daughter, Lauren Jolie Lockwood, on June 15, 2007, spent the entire season recovering from her pregnancy. Johnson, the 2005 WNBA Rookie of the Year, appeared in only 11 games in 2007 due to a prolonged recovery from offseason knee surgery. Holdsclaw, who the Sparks looked to lead the young squad with Leslie out, played in only five games before announcing her retirement from the WNBA.
After Holdsclaw’s retirement, the team’s starting five changed on almost a daily basis and the losses began to mount quickly. Taj McWilliams-Franklin, who was the new girl in town after coming over from Connecticut in the offseason, suddenly became the team’s veteran leader and star player. She finished the season with averages of 11.1 points and 5.9 rebounds, but the team was unable to overcome the holes left by Leslie, Johnson and Holdsclaw.
FUTURE / NEEDS
The dark days of the 2007 season could soon be a distant memory for Sparks fans as Los Angeles looks to have one of the most talented lineups in the league this summer.
Along with the return of Leslie and Johnson, the Sparks won the draft lottery and hold the No. 1 overall pick in the highly anticipated 2008 WNBA Draft, which has potential franchise players at the top of the draft board.
The Sparks lost two veteran players this offseason as LaToya Thomas was selected in the Atlanta Dream expansion draft and Mwadi Mabika signed with Houston as a free agent. The Sparks signed free-agent Marie-Ferdinand-Harris, a three-time All-Star who has averaged 11.5 points during her career in the WNBA.
Coach Cooper will have the job of incorporating all the new and returning pieces together in 2008, but that should be a welcomed task after having to deal with so much missing talent in 2007. The Sparks should have the talent to make a championship run in 2008 – it will all depend on how quickly they can come together.