2013 WNBA Season Previews: Los Angeles Sparks

On to the Western Conference, once again in alphabetical order. No favouritism shown at WNBAlien.

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PG: Lindsey Harding

SG: Kristi Toliver/A’dia Mathies

SF: Alana Beard/Jenna O’Hea/Marissa Coleman/Farhiya Abdi

PF: Nneka Ogwumike/Ebony Hoffman

C: Candace Parker/Jantel Lavender

 

Significant gains: Lindsey Harding, maybe Mathies and/or Abdi.

Significant losses: DeLisha Milton-Jones (and they cut Nicky Anosike by choice).

 

For a team that went 24-10, had its superstar finally last a full season, featured the runaway Rookie of the Year and had both a breakout star and an impressive comeback story in the backcourt – there was a hell of a lot of whining about the Los Angeles Sparks last year. Much of it prior to them being swept by Minnesota in the Western Conference Finals. After Sharnee Zoll tore her ACL prior to the season, they had to make do with Kristi Toliver and Alana Beard sharing the point guard duties – something neither is entirely comfortable with. The defense was a constant work in progress, flipping through multiple systems and often having to compensate for breakdowns from Toliver and Candace Parker. The bench was inconsistent at best, often dropping to the realms of awful. So fans found plenty to complain about. Yet they were in the battle for the Western Conference lead all year, and won a playoff series for the first time since the Lisa Leslie era. Imagine what they might do in Carol Ross’s second year at the helm, after adding yet another important piece to the puzzle?

 

The major addition is point guard Lindsey Harding, signed as a free agent from Atlanta. Despite joining her fourth franchise in seven WNBA seasons – good players don’t tend to move that much – Harding is a smart point who can run a team, solidly part of the second tier of point guards in the women’s game behind Sue Bird and Lindsay Whalen. She gives Ross a steady hand to steer the ship, another player who can penetrate and score a few points, and a useful perimeter defender. Her presence also takes Toliver and Beard off the ball, which is where both ideally want to be. On-ball pressure caused LA a lot of problems in the playoffs last year – especially for Toliver – which shouldn’t be as much of an issue this season. Now Toliver can concentrate on scoring, which is something she can be exceptionally good at, while Beard becomes a primary defender and secondary ballhandler. It’s a better fit.

 

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2012 In-Depth WNBA Season Preview: Los Angeles Sparks

PG: Sharnee Zoll

SG: Alana Beard/Kristi Toliver/April Sykes

SF: DeLisha Milton-Jones/Marissa Coleman

PF: Candace Parker/Nneka Ogwumike/Ebony Hoffman

C: Nicky Anosike/Jantel Lavender

Significant additions: Carol Ross (new head coach, formerly an assistant with Atlanta), Ogwumike (college draft), Beard (free agency from Washington), Coleman (trade from Washington), Anosike (trade from Washington), Zoll (free agency after being out of the league), Sykes (college draft)

Significant losses: Ticha Penicheiro (free agency to Chicago), Tina Thompson (free agency to Seattle), Noelle Quinn (trade with Washington), Jenna O’Hea (with Australian National Team preparing for the Olympics), Natasha Lacy (trade with Washington), LaToya Pringle (trade with Washington)

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After several years of mediocrity and inconsistency, the very least we can say about the Sparks heading into 2012 is that they’re interesting. There are so many questions, sub-plots and unknowns surrounding this team that it’s going to be fascinating to see how it all works out. If new head coach Carol Ross can pull all the pieces together, and they stay largely healthy throughout the year, they have the potential to be a powerful and dangerous group. However, even the most devoted Sparks fan has to admit, there’s also the potential here for everything to come crumbling down around them. Continue reading

WNBA Offseason Overview/Preseason Preview: Los Angeles Sparks

Current roster certainties and virtual certainties:

PG: Sharnee Zoll

SG: Alana Beard/Kristi Toliver

SF: DeLisha Milton-Jones/Marissa Coleman

PF: Candace Parker/Nneka Ogwumike/Ebony Hoffman

C: Nicky Anosike/Jantel Lavender

Fighting for the final roster spot: Ashley Shields, Khadijah Rushdan, Tyra White, Darxia Morris, anyone another team cuts who can vaguely play the point

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New coach, several new players, and hopefully for Sparks fans, the start of a new era in LA. The combined shambles under Jen Gillom and Joe Bryant last season has been consigned to history, and the reins have been handed over to former Atlanta assistant Carol Ross. As a nice little bonus for Ross, the Sparks beat the odds and ended up with the #1 pick in what most people saw as a one-player draft (at least they did once Griner, Delle Donne and Diggins chose to stay in school). That allowed LA to add Stanford’s Nneka Ogwumike, an extremely talented forward who should be able to help immediately. Eventually, they also accomplished the important task of re-signing centerpiece star Candace Parker to a new contract. Continue reading

WNBAlien 2011 Previews: Los Angeles Sparks

And we’re back. You guys are just gonna have to trust me that what you find below was mostly written and entirely conceived before last night’s game. I promise.

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PG: Ticha Penicheiro/(Quinn if they’ve got any sense, Lacy and Toliver if they don’t)

SG: Noelle Quinn/Kristi Toliver/Natasha Lacy

SF: DeLisha Milton-Jones/Jenna O’Hea

PF: Tina Thompson/Ebony Hoffman

C: Candace Parker/Jantel Lavender/LaToya Pringle

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Head coach: Jennifer Gillom

Significant additions: A healthy Parker, and a completely revamped bench.

Significant losses: Nothing much. Marie Ferdinand-Harris, Betty Lennox, Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton and others have left – big deal.

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This one isn’t complicated. The decidedly aging starting lineup is yet another year older and closer to retirement; the bench is almost entirely turned over from last year’s reserves (quite rightly, considering the last lot stunk); the head coach is still completely unproven at this level – and yet it’s all about one woman. Continue reading