Los Angeles Sparks: 2007 Preview

LOS ANGELES SPARKS
2006 Results: The Sparks finished
25-9, (.735, 1st in the West).
Roster | Stats | 2007 Schedule
Head coach: Michael Cooper enters his fifth season with the team.
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2007 Probable Starters:
C:
Taj McWilliams-Franklin
PF:
Chamique Holdsclaw
SF:
Mwadi Mabika
SG:
Tamara Moore
PG:
Temeka Johnson
2007 Draft Results:
Rd. 2:
Sidney Spencer
Rd. 3:
Amanda Brown
2006 Leaders:
Points
Lisa Leslie, 20.0 ppg
Rebs.
Lisa Leslie, 9.5 rpg
Assts.
Temeka Johnson, 5.0 apg
Blocks
Lisa Leslie, 1.7 bpg
Steals
Lisa Leslie, 1.5 spg

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.

COMING BACK


Holdsclaw
The returning foursome of Chamique Holdsclaw, Mwadi Mabika, Tamara Moore and Temeka Johnson has great chemistry on the court. In 25 games, Holdsclaw averaged 15.0 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.3 steals per game. Entering her 11th season with the Sparks, Mabika will be back at the shooting guard spot. Starting 32 games last season, the Congo native averaged 8.5 ppg and hit 88.9% of her free throws. Rising star Johnson often accompanied Mabika in the back court. In just her sophomore season at point guard, she averaged an impressive 5.0 assists per game.

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).

KEY ADDITIONS

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.


McWilliams-Franklin
Back on the player front, Los Angeles signed the 2006 MVP of the Spanish league, Marta Fernandez. Fernandez is a shooting guard who played the past three seasons with Barcelona where she averaged 18.6 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game. If Fernandez can adjust quickly to the WNBA style, she might snag a starting spot.

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.

OUTLOOK

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.

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