Los Angeles Sparks Season Preview
In perhaps one of the most emotional moments in the WNBA last season, Candace Parker walked off the court during the Playoffs in tears last October, seeking comfort on the shoulder of her mother.
The Los Angeles Sparks had held a 10-point fourth-quarter lead over the defending champion Minnesota Lynx in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals, looking just minutes away from forcing a Game 3. The Lynx closed the gap, but a Parker 3-pointer with 1:31 left put the Sparks up two. They wouldn't score again, however, and Minnesota edged L.A. with an 80-79 win, thus keeping Parker from her first trip to the WNBA Finals -- a gut-wrenching blow for a team that could have conceivably won a WNBA title.
"We're going to take that and let that be a motivational factor as we move into this season," Los Angeles coach Carol Ross said. "Clearly we will use all of our experiences, both good and bad, and try to be a better team moving forward. Those moments break your heart, but you love coaching players that take winning and losing so much to heart."
The Sparks had one of the toughest cores in the league last year with Parker and 2012 Rookie of the Year Nneka Ogwumike dominating inside and with clutch shooter Kristi Toliver burning the nets from the wing. This season, that core is about to get even stronger after the team signed guard Lindsey Harding from the Atlanta Dream. Ross, last year's WNBA Coach of the Year, is no stranger to Harding, having coached her during her time with the Dream before she came to Los Angeles.
"She's going to bring some speed to the floor on both ends," Ross said. "She's going to open up shots and make them easier for all of her teammates. She's extroverted - an energy type player - and typically teammates love playing with those kinds of players."
Ross said adding Harding will give the team some much-needed depth in their backcourt. Harding's speed complements the team's centerpiece offensive strategy of scoring baskets on transition, she said.
Expectations are always high in Los Angeles, and the team expects to make a legitimate run for the title once again this season. But the way the landscape will change this season as a result of the influx of megastar draft picks, injuries to key players, and game-changing roster moves makes this season a difficult one to predict, Ross said.
"We've got our fair share of talent, a lot of other teams are excited about their teams as well," Ross said. "It's going to be hard to predict. You couldn't predict last year that Indiana was going to win it but they put a run together at the right time. Every team has talent and it's going to be fun to watch it all play out."
1. Kristi Toliver(17.5)
2. Candace Parker (17.4)
3. Nneka Ogwumike (14.0)
1. Candace Parker (9.7)
2. Nneka Ogwumike (7.5)
3. Delisha Milton-Jones (4.4)
1. Kristi Toliver (4.9)
2. Candace Parker (3.3)
3. Alana Beard (3.3)