The Sparks posted the best regular season record in the West last season, going 25-9, but they were unable to get past the 2005 WNBA champs, the Sacramento Monarchs, in the Western Conference Finals. This year, four of the Sparks' starters will be back for revenge.
NOT COMING BACK
The good news is that the Sparks recently re-signed superstar Lisa Leslie to a multiyear contract. The bad news for the team is that she will miss the upcoming season to give birth to her first child. While the Sparks are excited for Leslie's new addition, they will miss Leslie's presence on the court. Last season she won her third league MVP, was named to the West All-Star Team, the All-Defensive Team, the All-WNBA First Team and the All-WNBA Decade Team. She also became the first player to reach the 5,000-point barrier. She also led the Sparks in points (20.0), rebounds (9.5), steals (1.5) and blocks (1.7).
In perhaps the biggest player pickup of the winter, Taj McWilliams-Franklin joins the Sparks after an offseason trade from the Connecticut Sun. She brings with her eight years of experience and will help to compensate for the loss of Leslie for the year. Last season she started for one of the premiere teams in the league and compiled 12.8 points and 7.5 boards a game. She is strong on both ends of the court and her experience and gritty play in the paint will be valuable additions to the Sparks roster.
Coming in a close second in importance, the Sparks have also brought back master motivator Michael Cooper as head coach. The former Lakers star won two titles during his previous stopover with the Sparks and earned three straight Western Conference titles.
Also in the running for a starting spot will be forward LaToya Thomas, who the Sparks signed as a free agent late this spring. Thomas spent the last three seasons in San Antonio, and averaged 8.3 points and 4.3 boards a game in 2006.
In the 2007 WNBA Draft, the Sparks chose forward Sidney Spencer from Tennessee. As a starter for the national championship-winning Lady Vols, she averaged 11.6 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. She is a solid shooter who will provide depth on the wing.
While no player can replace Lisa Leslie, McWilliams-Franklin should step in
adequately for the Sparks. If McWilliams-Franklin can create chemistry with
her new teammates, if Fernandez can make the adjustment to the WNBA and if Holdsclaw
regains the dominant form she showed earlier in her career, Los Angeles will
remain one of the top teams in the West.