After a sub .500 2021 and missing the playoffs for the first time in a decade, the Sparks are looking forward to a fresh start in 2022. They made a big splash in free agency by signing Liz Cambage, and coach/general manager Derek Fisher will be focused on bringing this historic franchise back to the top of the league. The question is, do they have enough to do it?
We are still in training camp, but with players like Liz Cambage, Nneka and Chiney Ogumike, and veteran leadership from Kristi Tolliver, the Sparks have a good core that should be making the playoffs. Last season was a challenge with star player Candace Parker leaving for Chicago. Parker left big shoes to fill, but if anyone can be up to the challenge, it’s Cambage.
Cambage has said that she always wanted to play for the Sparks, and now she’ll have an opportunity to be the face of the franchise and lead LA out of the WNBA basement. Six games under .500 is not a record that will be accepted in Los Angeles, and the 6-foot-8 center will have every opportunity to right the ship.
Camabge solves a lot of the Sparks' problems. She gives them a dynamic big who can create for herself, ease the offensive pressure on the guards and clean up the glass. Last season Camabge averaged 14.2 points and 8.2 rebounds a game. Those averages would’ve made her the team leader in rebounds and just decimal points off from being the points leader, which was Nneka Ogumike with 14.5.
Other Off-Season Moves
The Sparks' top players are pretty clear. What remains uncertain is what the depth chart will look like further down. Maximizing that back half of the roster will be where Derek Fisher will be tested. The Sparks could go from a fringe playoff team to a contender if he gets that part correct. Can a player like Katie Lou Samuelson shine under Fisher’s leadership? She shot 35 percent from three last season and hasn’t established herself anywhere, changing teams in all three of her WNBA seasons. If Fisher can get the best out of her, she could be a huge asset coming off the bench, hitting threes and stretching the floor.
Chennedy Carter had two productive seasons in Atlanta and is now joining the Sparks. She was a walking bucket for the Dream and pairing her with N. Ogwumike and Cambage sounds exciting on paper. In practice, Fisher will have to find a way to optimize the offense and get buy-in from everyone on the defensive side of the ball.
Carter wasn’t the only guard added during the off-season. Jordin Canada played four seasons in Seattle as a key rotation player and will be looking for a fresh start in LA. Having the homegrown kid back in LA will be fun, and, more importantly, it will give the team more depth and production at the guard position. Canada averaged 7.2 points in 21.7 minutes of play during her career in Seattle.
Having a losing season is unexpected for LA. Having another season like that would be unacceptable. A repeat of 2021 would undoubtedly put Derek Fisher on the hot seat. On paper, this off-season was a success. The Sparks got star power and added quality depth to their roster. Being that Fisher is the general manager and coach, he has no excuse as to why this season won’t work. He made the decisions and built this roster to his liking. Let’s see what he does and how it goes. One thing is for certain and that is the rest of the WNBA world will be watching what’s happening in So. Cal this season.