They lost their coach. They have lost their star center. Eventually, they lost their playoff chances.
Need a win to stay alive in the post-season race, the sparks got dominated by connecticut sun for the second time in three days, losing 93-69 at Crypto.com Arena on Thursday. The blowout sealed the Sparks’ second straight season without a playoff berth, a streak of trivia reached only once in franchise history.
The most stable pillar of the organization Nneka Ogwumike had 10 points and nine rebounds, but committed a team-high four turnovers. As a finishing blow, the All-Star forward appeared to twist her ankle in the fourth quarter of the blowout and gingerly walked away as the Sparks trailed by 22 points with 5:14 left. Brittney Sykes had 18 points as the Sparks (13-22) lost for the eighth time in the last nine games, seven of those losses coming after the abrupt departure of center Liz Cambage.
“We faced so much adversity on and off the pitch,” Sykes said. “It’s not an excuse, but it’s a reality. So we just have to keep giving each other the grace. … We did what we were supposed to do and sometimes the pieces don’t stick. But I’m proud of our team. We fought hard so yes.
Sparks rookie Olivia Nelson-Ododa blocked Alyssa Thomas’ first attempt in the second half and gave the eight-year-old WNBA veteran a fiery look as if to signal the Sparks wouldn’t go down easily. But the Sun (24-11) proved why he was a four-year championship favorite behind effortlessly scoring Thomas (18 points, nine rebounds), reigning most valuable player Jonquel Jones (17 points ) and DeWanna Bonner (13 points, seven assists).
Sunday’s regular season finale against the Dallas Wings will be just a formality before the Sparks embark on a crucial offseason to rebuild a franchise in disarray.
Katie Lou Samuelson and Chennedy Carter are the only Sparks players under protected contracts next season, which means the next general manager has no room to rework the roster. The team is without its 2023 first-round pick, which belongs to Washington. There are six unrestricted free agents, all confirmed veterans: Ogwumike, his sister Chiney, who missed Thursday with persistent symptoms of a concussion; Sykes; Kristi Toliver; Lexie Brown and Jordin Canada.
Canada, who signed a one-year contract as a free agent last year, told the Los Angeles Times it hopes to be back for a recall, although the Sparks have yet to name coach or general manager. Will other free agents want to join her with the struggling franchise?
“Absolutely,” said Canada. “One, who doesn’t love being in LA? And two, just the story behind the Sparks organization and the championships and everything that’s happened with that organization. I think no matter what happened this year, next year I still think it’s going to be a place where people want to come.
Carter returned after a four-game absence, which interim head coach Fred Williams described solely as a “coach’s decision”. She scored eight points off the bench and declined to discuss the details of her absence.
Williams said his “heart” made the decision to put Carter back on the ground, but did not divulge details of the conversation he had with the keeper who missed most of last season with the Atlanta Dream due to a suspension issued by the team.
“It’s more than basketball, it’s mental,” Williams said. “And sometimes it gets personal. Sometimes people don’t understand that. I protect the players on this. … I was happy to see her play tonight and to be happy to play basketball.
Williams, a 40-year veteran coach, said he has become a “godfather” of the WNBA. The Sparks looked to him to lead the team through tumultuous times when Derek Fisher was fired, even though Williams was set to leave the team in July because he accepted an associate head coaching position with the program. Auburn women’s basketball court.
Instead, he stayed on to lead the Sparks and said Thursday that it’s not guaranteed we’ll leave despite his college obligations. Williams said he and the Sparks were “still talking about a few things.”