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L.A. Sparks Can Apply For Emergency Hardship Exception With Nicky Anosike Out For Six Weeks

Los Angeles Sparks guard Kristi Toliver is off to a good start this season, but - despite her heroics - Tuesday night's game showed that she probably needs a backup. <em>Photo by Marilyn Indahl-US PRESSWIRE.</em>
Los Angeles Sparks guard Kristi Toliver is off to a good start this season, but - despite her heroics - Tuesday night's game showed that she probably needs a backup. Photo by Marilyn Indahl-US PRESSWIRE.

Hours before Tuesday night's game against the Tulsa Shock, the Los Angeles Sparks announced that post Nicky Anosike would be undergoing knee surgery that would keep her out of action for about six weeks.

"After further evaluation of her knee, we decided that performing surgery now, rather than later, would be her best option, so that we could have a 100 percent healthy Nicky for the remainder of the season," Sparks Vice President and General Manager Penny Toler said in a release.

With Anosike's injury, the Sparks are now down to 9 active players after previously losing point guard Sharnee Zoll for the season to a knee injury. That qualifies them to apply for an Emergency Hardship Exception, according to Article VII, Section 4b of the WNBA Collective Bargaining Agreement.

If a Team during the Regular Season, as a result of injuries, illnesses, other conditions or other extenuating circumstances that have affected its players, has less than ten (10) players on its roster who are able to play, it may apply to the WNBA to obtain an Exception to sign one or more Replacement Player(s) to Replacement Contract(s) to replace one or more of the Team's unavailable Players. Any such Replacement Contract shall be terminated immediately once ten (10) other players on the Team's roster are again able to play.

Although Kristi Toliver has stepped up in the Sparks' first five games to fill in at the point guard spot after Zoll's injury was announced just prior to the season opener, Tuesday night's game demonstrated the need for the Sparks to find some additional help at the point guard spot.

It's not just that Toliver had a WNBA record 14 turnovers despite hitting a dramatic three in transition at the buzzer to lift the Sparks to a 76-75 win that made the demand for some backcourt help obvious; it's that the Sparks struggled to find any alternative in the face of Toliver's struggles and the team's ball handling troubles contributed to a 31% turnover rate against the Shock's pressure defense. Perhaps more telling was that a post player not named Candace Parker led the team in pure *point* rating for the second consecutive game (center Jantel Lavender with 3 assists & 0 turnovers had a PPR of 15.38). Thus far on the season, Toliver has a PPR of -4.51 (23 assists to 23 turnovers in 170 minutes).

Yet saying that the Sparks need backcourt help isn't even an indictment of Toliver - they just need to have a viable alternative for situations when they need a change of pace at point or Toliver has an off-night. Alana Beard, Candace Parker, and to some extent April Sykes were all utilized on Tuesday night to help handle the ball, but it wasn't clear that the coaching staff was comfortable with any of those options given that they didn't seem to stick with any one for very long.

As described at the time of Zoll's injury, there are point guard options out there - both veterans and rookies that didn't make the cut elsewhere - and with Anosike's injury the Sparks have nothing to lose in applying for the hardship and at least seeing if they can find a replacement for Zoll that might be worth considering keeping as they look to make a playoff run. With a few days off before the first of two home games on Sunday, it would seem that right now would be as good a time as any to bring in a new player and get them acclimated to the system.

At the very least, it would give them 10 bodies to have in practice, which would appear to be helpful for a basketball team.