Select Team

Season In Review: Los Angeles Sparks

As the end of 2020 draws near, WNBA.com is wrapping up this historic year by reviewing each team’s season. Take a look back at notable contributors and season highlights with the 2020 Season In Review. Next up: The Los Angeles Sparks. 

Overview:

When you look at the Sparks roster alone, star-power jumps out. From league legend Candace Parker to WNBPA President Nneka Ogwumike to the flashy rook Te’a Cooper, LA had plenty of pieces. That’s not even mentioning the likes of Chelsea Gray, Tierra Ruffin-Pratt and Riquna Williams and so many more down a deep LA bench. And one of the most complete teams in the league was able to put together considerable success amidst a new-look 2020 season.

Prior to the season start, the Sparks added 4x WNBA champion and experienced vet Seimone Augustus to their roster during free agency. LA also acquired Brittney Sykes, who would prove to be a lockdown defender alongside Parker. The additions helped aid in the losses of Chiney Ogwumike and Kristi Toliver, who both opted out of the 2020 season.

The Sparks saw a spurt of a league-best, nine-straight wins in the middle of the season, which helped them finish with a 15-7 record.

With the No. 3 seed in the WNBA Playoffs, the Sparks experienced an abrupt second-round exit against No. 7 Connecticut to end the year.

Top Contributors

Candace Parker

She may have been dubbed the 2020 DPOY, but Candace Parker also led her team in scoring (14.7 PPG) and averaged 4.6 APG. On the defensive end, she collected a league-best 9.7 RPG alongside 1.2 BPG and 1.2 SPG. The unanimous 2020 All-WNBA First Teamer started in all 22 of the Sparks’ games this season and averaged 30 minutes per game in Year 13.

Off the court, Parker does it all as well. She’s an NBA analyst on TNT and a mom to 11-year-old-daughter Lailaa, who was with her in Bradenton for the 2020 WNBA season. Parker spoke up frequently on the social injustices affecting the country.

“We are the majority of the minority – we’re a league that’s 80% African-American women, women of color… different ethnicities, (we) tackle sexual orientation – like, we literally check every box,” said Parker. “We’re speaking from a platform of understanding as well as being representative of what everybody is trying to achieve.”

Chelsea Gray

The “Point Gawd,” as fans and teammates alike call her, truly took care of the offense she orchestrated. Gray averaged 14 PPG and a team-high 5.3 APG while also adding in 1.5 SPG. She shot nearly 94% from the free-throw line as well. Her leadership also stood out to head coach Derek Fisher.

“What makes Chelsea really special is her ability to rise to the moment and not be afraid to make the play that needs to be made,” he said. “She’s become a really, truly genuine leader.”

And it wasn’t just the quantity of assists she dished out. Gray also gave out some head-turning passes as well.

Brittney Sykes

Sykes was named to the WNBA All-Defense Second Team for her efforts. Most notably, the guard averaged 1.5 SPG – ranking 15th in the WNBA – in just 24.4 minutes played (44th amongst all players). She was joined on the Second Team by Breanna Stewart, Napheesa Collier, Ariel Atkins and MVP A’ja Wilson.

“I take it upon myself to lock down on defense every game, every time I step onto the floor,” Sykes said.

Season Highlights

Candace Parker Wins DPOY For First Time

For the first time in her 13-year WNBA career, Candace Parker won the Defensive Player of the Year Award – an accolade she said she personally places above her WNBA MVPs (2008; 2013) and ROY (2008) honors.

Parker recalled her late college coach at Tennessee, Pat Summitt, who used to say “offense sells tickets, defense wins games, rebounding wins championships.” Summitt, she said, was the first coach to challenge her and say she could be a DPOY.

Brittney Sykes’ Big-Time Block

Sykes may stand at 5-foot-9, but she had one of the biggest blocks of the season against Sparks rival, the Lynx. As Minnesota looked destined for a breakaway layup, Sykes soared from across the opposite side of the floor to swat what looked like an easy bucket straight out of bounds (:25 in).

Nneka Speaks on Behalf of All WNBA Players

On August 26, the Milwaukee Bucks opted not to play Game 5 of their first-round series against the Orlando Magic. The rest of the NBA followed suit, and the WNBA stood in solidarity in relation to the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Nneka Ogwumike, who also won the league’s Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award, spoke with Holly Rowe on behalf of all WNBA players, demanding justice.